Selborne ended their season with a thrilling 27-21 victory over Grey High in Saturday’s Classic Clash in East London. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Brimming with confidence following their shock three-point win over Dale a week ago, Selborne produced another first-rate performance to open up a 27-0 lead over Grey. But what looked like runaway victory for the hosts at one stage, turned into a nail-biting finish as Grey scored three times in the final 18 minutes to set up a grande finale.
With the deficit reduced to six, and half a minute remaining, Selborne managed to win a turnover penalty and decided to kick for touch. The decision nearly backfired, as Grey secured the ball at the lineout and launched one last attack. The ball was kept alive five minutes into stoppage time as the visitors battered away at the scrambling defence, but the pressure on Selborne was relieved when the attacking team lost the ball in contact, forcing referee Josh Kent to bring an end to a quality match.
Before this game, these teams had played 65 times and were level on 31 wins each and three draws. This result edges Selborne ahead.
Selborne were the best team on the field for about 50 of the 70 minutes and fully deserving of their commanding lead. David Coetzer’s meticulous game-management and control led to Grey’s downfall in the first half. The flyhalf was at the heart of every Selborne attack, while also doing his part on defence.
Coetzer opened the scoring with a penalty, before making a wonderful break from inside Selborne’s 22 to set up fullback and birthday boy James Bruce for the first try. The hosts continued to pin Grey inside their own half and the defending side were caught offside. A quick-tap penalty then saw right wing Josh Armstrong go over in the corner, but not before putting a massive fend on his direct opponent.
The 13-point advantage was extended to 27 soon after the half-time break with a double strike by Coetzer and hooker Mila Bomela.
Grey also had a couple of opportunities to get on the board, but were panicky and bereft of ideas whenever they came close to the tryline, while Selborne were as composed in defence as they were accurate in attack.
Grey looked dead and buried at that stage. But a sudden shift in momentum came as the hosts sparked into action. In the 52nd minute, tighthead Sive Masosiwe ran a brilliant line to burst over and scrumhalf Praven Bosch converted.
Grey’s openside flank Azola Mahonga, who had been their one standout performer throughout the match, was then rewarded with a try of his own and when Bosch landed the touchline conversion, there was an urgency in Grey’s play that was missing before. Selborne looked shaken and conceded a couple of penalties granting Grey easy entry into the 22.
Grey’s James Neubert then shrugged off two defenders to grab his side’s third converted effort, setting up a tight finish.
There were still a few nervy moments for the Selbornians, but in the end they regrouped and forced Grey into making a handling error that brought an end to a super schools match.
Selborne – Tries: James Bruce, Josh Armstrong, David Coetzer, Mila Bomela. Conversions: Coetzer (2). Penalty: Coetzer.
Grey High – Tries: Sive Masosiwe, Azola Mahonga, James Neubert. Conversions: Praven Bosch (3).
Photo: Old Selbornian Association