Cape Town – SA Rugby’s flagship schools tournament kicked off with a bang on Monday when Western Province beat Border 34-18, and the Sharks ran riot to secure a 33-5 win over Valke on day one of Craven Week at Rondebosch Boys High School in Cape Town.
The return of the Under-18 Craven Week was celebrated with a barrage of tackles, sidesteps, counter-attacks and ultimately, tries, with four matches celebrating the resumption of the tournament in 2022 after a two year absence.
No less than 30 tries were scored with the two sides from host union, Western Province in particular, in dazzling form. The Western Province side, playing in the final match of the day, scored five tries in a pulsating win over Border, while earlier the Western Province XV dazzled the crowd with ten tries in a 65-7 win over Fin Global Boland.
Earlier in the day the Sharks High Schools side outplayed Valke 33-12 and in the opening match of the tournament, Griquas and Eastern Province delivered an exhilarating opener, with the Kimberley side securing a 39-22 win.
The opening match yielded eight delightful tries as the two teams attacked from all angles. This resulted in a highly entertaining match, with a number of flowing movements, especially from the Griquas, who attacked through their willing backline on every occasion.
The EP side returned the compliment, but lacked the finishing touches displayed by the Northern Cape side early on. Griquas outscored EP four tries to nil for a 27-3 lead at the break, but then the EP side came back strongly.
They scored three late tries in a desperate rally to overhaul the deficit, helped by a red card to Griquas for a reckless ruck entry, but the Kimberley boys had the last say with a breakaway try that sealed the match.
The Sharks/Valke match was a more direct affair with both sides trying to outmuscle the other. The Sharks had a more structured approach, and their game management was excellent. They took all points on offer, with flyhalf Deano Boesak kicking four penalties, something that proved decisive in the end. They held a 12-5 lead at the break but only outscored the Gauteng side three tries to two, but Boesak’s accuracy off the tee proved the difference.
Western Province XV were just too slick for their Western Cape neighbours, Boland, and it seemed that their backs would score every time they were in possession. Boland simply had no reply to the speed and skill of the home side’s backs and the 34-0 scoreline at the break was just reward for the blue and white hoops’ attacking endeavour.
The second half was a bit more disjointed, as Boland had to turn defence into attack and ran from everywhere. That did deliver a try, but the home side’s relentless pursuit of five pointers continued and they left the field resounding winners, with fullback Jandre Genis bagging 25 points to become the leading points’ scorer on day one.
In the final match of the day, the Western Province team started like a house on fire, scoring two quick tries before Border found their feet in defence and answered back with two penalty goals.
The Province pack were in command though, mainly due to some storming play by prop Zachary Porten and a third try was never far away. That was scored by centre Jameel de Jongh. Border kept plugging away though and a try by flank Tiaan Jacobs earned them some reward for staying in the fight, earning a 22-11 scoreline at the break.
Province scored soon after the restart and what a beautiful try it proved to be on the counter-attack, with wing Luke Graham swan-diving to celebrate. Border had a try cancelled and generally found the going much easier in the second half, but conceded a vital try late in the clash when Graham charged a kick and raced away to score with nine minutes to play.
There was no return for Border after that, trailing 34-11. Flanker Michael Maseti scored a gem, showing great strength to crash over amidst a heap of Province defenders, but the early lead by the home side proved defensive.