The Falcons, reduced to 14 men for the last 30 minutes of the match, handed Western Province their second successive Currie Cup defeat when they edged the Cape Town side 38-32 in an enthralling encounter in Brakpan on Friday.
In a game that produced three cards for spear tackles, the Falcons saw red when wing Johan Swartz was sent for an early shower (red carded) in the 49th minute.
However, the home side can truly feel aggrieved over the puzzling decisions of referee Marius Jonker, who saw fit to issue only yellow cards for the two Province players – lock Ross Skeate (33rd minute) and loose forward Francois Louw (65th minute) – who were guilty of spear tackles.
They obviously like the soft, green grass of home – Western Province. Last week they went up to the frost-burnt grass of unfashionable Kimberley to play the bottom team in the Currie Cup and were tackled into defeat. This week they went up to unfashionable Brakpan to play what had become the bottom team in the Currie Cup and were tackled into defeat.
Tackling won it in the end but skill made the victory – skill, confidence, selfbelief, a sense of adventure – all those things. After the match influential Sean Plaatjies said: “We believe in our coach and we believe in our game plan.” That belief was obvious.
Their handling was better than Western Province’s and their tackling was better than Western Provinces. And they ran more often and with better lines than Western Province did. For this they deserved to win.
Big Western Province gradually wore away the Falcon’s possession and then they tackled. Dow to 14 men for 31 minutes, they tackled and tackled.
They deserved their glee at the final whistle.
Part of the game plan that Plaatjies spoke of was to run the ball. Flyhalf Len Olivier hardly ever kicked, but he had two great breaks. Only when they had to fight from the trenches did they kick. Leading 35-32 with less than two minutes to play and on the Western Province line, the Falcons still tapped and ran in search of the try they did not need. Eventually with only a few seconds left they agreed to kick at goal, ending the match. I wonder if there was another team in the world that would have tapped to score another try at that stage.
By then the Falcons had a scored five tries and had a bonus point in the bag. Western Province had scored four tries and their close defeat plus their tries gave them two points for the match.
The truth is that the side playing the better rugby won at Bosman Stadium. The Red Devils were devilish good.
Olivier kicked off for the home side and they attacked on the beige field with the blue lines. They played fast from the start. When Deon Fourie knocked on fullback Nicky Kritzinger swooped on the ball and raced down the right touch-line and round for a try under the posts. Olivier converted. 7-0 after 4 minutes.
After Gio Aplon had had a good run, Willem de Waal goaled a penalty but that was soon swamped by another try. De Waal kicked poorly into touch and the Falcons won the line-out near the front. They went left and Olivier ran on the outside of Justin Melck and through Dewald Duvenage to score at the posts. 14-3 after 12 minutes.
Western Province scored when Adriaan Fondse scored from close quarters to make it 14-8 and then actually took the lead. They threw to Ross Skeate at a five-metre line-out and mauled till they were over with Brok Harris getting the touchdown. This time De Waal converted. 15-14 to Western Province after 23 minutes.
Gcobani Bobo who was always dangerous on attack without actually producing a try seemed to have set one up when he forged ahead and gave to PJ Vermeulen who was over. The referee referred the matter to the television match official who was able to advise what was obvious 0- that the short pass from Bobo to Vermeulen was forward.
Just after this Skeate was sent to the sin bin for an expensive dangerous tackle. He lifted Hanno Coetzee in a tackle, had him horizontal and dropped him. Later in the match there would be two more tackles when the player was lifted. First left wing Johan Swartz lifted Aplon off his feet, turned him over so that his head was down and his legs were up and fell with him to the ground – a good example of a tackle called a spear tackle. For that Swartz was red-carded. Later the teams both teams had 14 men when François Louw picked up Reg Muller in the tackle, had him horizontal and fell to ground next to him. Louw got a yellow card for that. Certainly Swartz’s tackle was more dangerous than the other two, but none was desirable.
While Skeate was in the sin bin, which went on into the second half, the Falcons scored 21 points, taking them to 35-15. That burst was the winning of the match.
From a line-out they attacked wide and then hooker Ryno Barnes burst over from close quarters but far out on their left. Olivier converted. 21-15 after 34 minutes.
From the kick-off Olivier broke inside AJ Venter and raced down the field. Western Province were penalised and then penalised again for not being back 10 metres. The Falcons had a five-metre line-out mauled and the released the ball. Pretorius took an inside pass and plodded through three feeble tackles to score at the posts. That was the bonus-point try for the Falcons. 28-15. That was the half-time score.
Before the second half was a minute old, the Falcons were offside and De Waal goaled but straightaway the Falcons attacked with great hands and Plaatjies was close. Suddenly the Falcons went right and centre Rouan Cloete threw a great dummy which Venter brought and the big centre was over. Olivier converted and the Falcons led 35-15 – at which point Skeate returned.
From now on it was Western Province who had possession and did the attacking but there was no shortage of determination and courage on the part of the Red Devils.
When Western Province did a dizzy drive from a five-metre line-out the Falcons held them out. After Swartz’s dismissal Western Province again attacked and Harris was right at the line. They tapped a penalty and bashed again and this time big Fondse was able to barge over. 35-25.
After Kritzinger had had a break, Western Province were penalised and the Falcons actually kicked a penalty at goal – and Olivier missed with 20 minutes to play.
Western Province attacked left, right, left and the 14 Red Devils held them out. Tonderai Chavhanga looked certain to score but prop Killian felled him from behind. Western Province tapped and drove over the line but the Falcons held them up.
The Western Province try came as a shock. It was so simple. They went left, the Falcons seemed to have matched them up but suddenly Morgan Newman cut through the gap, drew Pretorius and gave Wylie Human a perfect pass and an easy run-in. 35-32 with five minutes to play.
Louw was back from the sin bin but Western Province did not look like scoring again. Instead it was the Falcons who battered at the Western Province line, were over it but Pretorius was dispossessed and eventually settled for a penalty which Jeff Perkins took as Olivier was injured. He hit it clean through the middle. 38-32, the final whistle and glee on the East Rand.
For the Falcons:
Tries: Kritzinger, Olivier, Barnes, Pretorius, Cloete
Cons: Olivier 5J
Pen: J Perkins
For Western Province:
Tries: Fondse 2, Harris, Human
Cons: De Waal 3
Pens: De Waal 2
Red card: Johan Swartz (Falcons, 49 – foul play, dangerous tackle)
Yellow cards: Ross Skeate (Western Province, 33 – foul play, dangerous tackle), Francois Louw (Western Province, 65 – foul play, dangerous tackle)
Falcons: 15 Nicky Kritzinger, 14 Dewald Pretorius, 13 Rouan Cloete, 12 Hanno Coetzee (captain), 11 Johan Swartz, 10 Len Olivier, 9 Gerrie Odendaal, 8 Sean Plaatjies, 7 Warren Perkins, 6 Reg Muller, 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Wouter Moore, 3 Nico Pretorius, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Frik Venter.
Replacements: 16 Jody Jeneker, 17 Zane Killian, 18 Reggie Perkins, 19 Emile Verster, 20 Freddie van Zyl, 21 Jeff Perkins, 22 Dean Bergsteedt.
Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 PJ Vermeulen, 12 Gcobani Bobo (captain), 11 Wylie Human, 10 Willem De Waal, 9 Dewald Duvenage, 8 AJ Venter, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Justin Melck, 5 Ross Skeate, 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Pieter Louw, 19 Conraad Britz, 20 Alastair Siegelaar, 21 Naas Olivier, 22 Morgan Newman.
Referee: Marius Jonker
Touch judges: Stuart Berry, Lappies Labuschagne
TMO: Willie Roos