The FNB Ikey Tigers wrestled back the Monte Taljaard Trophy from their opponents in Port Elizabeth on Monday night, beating the FNB NMMU Madibaz by 26-13 in a hard-fought Varsity Cup, Round Three encounter.
The Monte Taljaard Trophy is played in honour of UCT First XV flank and Grey PE rugby star Monte Taljaard, who tragically passed away in a car accident in September 2008, and UCT’s tenacity away from home – and NMMU’s resilience as hosts – were befitting of the inspirational former Ikeys star.
The Madibaz lifted the trophy for the first time in 2012, winning in dramatic circumstances, with UCT having – up till then – never lost to NMMU in the history of the Varsity Cup, the teams having drawn 5-5 on a windswept Green Mile last year which saw the trophy stay in Port Elizabeth.
Now, however, UCT can take the trophy back home to Cape Town and new coach Kevin Musikanth will be a happy man – having now guided his team to successive away wins over the Maties and the Madibaz after a disappointing opening-round home loss to NWU-Pukke two weeks ago.
The Ikeys scored three tries to two on a windless night in Port Elizabeth, with UCT management member Jonathan Kaplan commenting on Twitter before kick-off: “We are in PE. There is no wind. I waited 30 years as a ref for this special moment… what a beautiful day!!”
Whether the lack of wind benefited UCT remains to be seen, but they started strongly and scored the game’s first try through big flanker Shaun McDonald, flyhalf Dean Grant converting for an 8-0 lead after just five minutes of play in front of a noisy crowd of 7,890.
The visitors held their 8-0 lead going into the first strategy break, but the Madibaz hit back with their first points through a try by outside centre Michael Bernardt, with flyhalf Gavin Hauptfleisch adding the extras.
Worse was to follow for the Ikeys when try-scorer McDonald was carded for repeated infringements in the build-up to half-time, but UCT thought little of their one-man deficit when speedster Lihleli Xoli crossed for a valuable try a minute before half-time.
Grant made no mistake with his second conversion attempt of the night as the Ikeys led 16-8 at half-time, the UCT No.10 then extending his team’s lead in the 50th minute with a penalty goal as the Madibaz lost hooker Martin Ferreira to the sin bin.
UCT soon had a player joining Ferreira in the naughty chair and the hosts were rewarded when scrumhalf Daniel Acker scored but flyhalf Hauptfleisch missed the conversion to leave his team trailing 13-18 going into the final quarter.
The teams were soon back to their full complement of players, meaning a tense finish to the match as the hosts chased yet another come-from-behind victory – as they did in Johannesburg against FNB UJ last Monday.
However, the Ikeys held on in the closing stages, despite a massive onslaught from the Madibaz. A last-minute Richard Stewart intercept try, with NMMU having camped in UCT’s 22 for some five minutes, eventually brought about the final whistle and a famous away win for the Ikeys – crucially also denying their hosts a losing bonus point.
For UCT, flyhalf Dean Grant once again impressed with an 11-point haul and good kicking out of hand, whilst hard-working No.7 flanker Jason Klaasen walked off with the official Man of the Match Award as the Ikeys moved up to fifth place on the log – just behind the Madibaz on points’ difference.
For the FNB NMMU Madibaz:
Tries: Bernardt, Acker
For the UCT Ikey Tigers:
Tries: McDonald, Xoli, Stewart
Cons: Grant 3
FNB NMMU: 15 Donovan Marais, 14 Tythan Adams, 13 Michael Bernardt, 12 Andile Jho, 11 Yamkela Ngam, 10 Gavin Hauptfleisch, 9 Daniel Acker, 8 Timothy Agaba, 7 Wade Elliot, 6 Christopher Cloete, 5 Louis Fourie, 4 Stefan Willemse, 3 Simon Kerrod, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Roy Godfrey (captain).
Replacements: 16 Jody Reyneke, 17 Abongile Mnyaka, 18 Matthew Tweedle, 19 Andre Barnard, 20 Ivan Ludick, 21 Stefanus Booysen, 22 Ayabula Dlepu, 23 Kewan Voysey.
FNB UCT: 15 Martin Sauls, 14 Richard Stewart, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Nicholas Holton, 11 Lihleli Xoli, 10 Dean Grant, 9 Liam Slatem (captain), 8 Guy Alexander, 7 Shaun McDonald, 6 Jason Klaasen, 5 James Kilroe, 4 Jan Uys, 3 Digby Webb, 2 Chad Solomon, 1 Joel Carew.
Replacements: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Michael Kennedy, 18 Vince Jobo, 19 Zakeyo Tinetenda, 20 James Alexander, 21 Ross Jones-Davies, 22 Suwilanji Chibale, 23 David Maasch.
Referees: Francois Pretorius, Rodney Bonaparte