On Saturday 8 April, the Grahamstown Brumbies hosted the Trying Stars as part of the Eastern Province Grand Challenge cup. The atmosphere at the Oval was festive for the afternoon kickoff, despite the slightly overcast conditions.
The Brumbies looked to continue their winning form from their previous encounter against Wind Vogel, which they won by 28-8.
Trying Stars got off to a good start as a result of a moment of poor discipline from the Brumbies, as Garth Oosthuizen slotted a penalty to take an early 0-3 lead. This was followed immediately by a penalty against the visitors, allowing the Brumbies to draw level through the boot of Vincent Mains, which was pushed wide, and the score remained 0-3 in favour of the visitors.
After some end-to-end open play in which both teams were denied tries by the referee, the Brumbies managed to score the opening try of the match when Sisanda Ngindan crossed over from a scrum. Mains was unable to convert, which meant that the hosts held a narrow 5-3 lead.
The visitors received another opportunity to gain points late in the first half after the Brumbies were penalized for obstruction during a maul on the halfway line. Trying Stars’ Oosthuizen made no mistake in slotting the difficult kick, making the score 5-6, with the visitors taking the lead for the second time.
Another obstruction penalty from the Brumbies maul allowed Oosthuizen the opportunity to extend the lead. He made no mistake in curving the kick over the posts from the sideline, extending the visitors lead to 5-9. The first half came to an end shortly after.
Early in the second half, the Brumbies were dealt a blow in the form of a yellow card to Zwanele Zion for a high tackle. The Trying Stars looked to further their lead with another 50m kick. Oosthuizen missed his first kick of the match, as the ball slid left of the posts, and the score remained 5-9 in the visitors’ favour.
The Trying Stars failed to make their numbers count, with Zion returning to the field with no points being scored in his absence. The Brumbies reacted by placing severe pressure on the visitors’ line, eventually putting Alexis Walters over in the corner. Mains missed yet another conversion from out wide, resulting in the home side taking a narrow 10-9 lead.
The Trying Stars were looking to score from the boot, as they received another penalty on the half way line. Oosthuizen continued to show his long ranged kicking ability by slotting the penalty through the middle, taking the visitors back to a 10-12 lead.
The Trying Stars discipline cost them shortly afterwards, when Sheldon Canon received a yellow card for repeated infringements in the red zone. Mains made no mistake in adding the extra three points as the host took back the lead by 13-12.
Both sides then traded penalties as the discipline from both sides continued to leave much to be desired. With the second half rapidly approaching its climax, the scores read 16-15, with the home side holding on to the lead.
In the final play of the match the visitors were given a penalty to win the match. Oosthuizen missed the kick to the right, and the ball was duly smuggled into touch by the Brumbies. The final whistle blew and the Brumbies hung onto their narrow lead for the win. The final score read: Brumbies 16-15 Trying Stars.
After the match, the Brumbies’ coach, Sean Thompson, was disappointed with the manner in which his team played. “We have to work on our skills, I think that’s the most important thing. Our skills let us down today”, Thompson said, referring to the high number of handling errors.
The Brumbies will now travel to face the defending super 12 champions, Gardens, on 22 April in what can only be described as a tough away fixture.
Tries: Sisanda Ngindan, Alexis Walters
Penalties: Vincent Mains
Cards: Kwanele Zion
Penalties: Garth Oosthuizen
Cards: Sheldon Canon