FNB UCT produced a sensational first-half performance to put FNB Shimlas away 57-20 in their semifinal meeting in Cape Town, as they booked a place in the 2011 Varsity Cup Final for the third time in four years.
The Ikeys ran in six unanswered tries in an explosive opening half-hour that left their opponents stunned and the lively Groote Schuur crowd on their feet.
In all, the home side scored eight tries to three. After a scintillating first half the Ikey Tigers led 45-3; the second half was a waste of time. Flat beer is never good, certainly not after champagne.
The day was almost entirely wind-free, a rare treat for the ground exposed to every wind that blows in the Cape Peninsula where there is usually a wind. The teams walked out, each player holding the hand of a girl from Rustenburg Primary, just down the hill from UCT. The girls wore pink, each with a big letter to spell out Keep Agro on the Field, part of the Varsity Cup initiative to create awareness of violence against women.
The national anthem was sung by the UCT Choir, and it was such an emotional moment and rendition.
Then the game started. It was weird. You will have heard the cliché - a game of two halves. This was a game of two halves all right. Usually the cliché means a change in fortunes between the two sides. This was a change in play. The first half was bright and exciting from the start; the second half was a drab, dreary affair that seemed as if it would never end. But if you are a UCT man you will hang onto the brilliance of the first half when Racehorses played Clodhoppers.
Shimlas kicked and UCT countered - right, left, right, and fit-again inside centre Adrian Kritzinger, with scrum cap and moustache, threaded through a grubber. Therlow Pietersen, the outside centre, chased and scored in the corner. Demetri Catrakilis of the metronomic boot converted. 7-0 after just two minutes.
The next try was not long in coming as the Ikeys made capital out of the clumsy Shimla hands. They dropped the ball near the Ikey 22, Pietersen picked up, raced away and grubbered infield for Peter Haw to collect the kind bounce and set course for the posts. 14-0 after six minutes.
A penalty gave George Whitehead a score for his side but when the Shimlas knocked on, Kritzinger picked up and was brought down near the line. The Ikeys went wide left and fullback Ricky Rijs scored. 21-3 after 11 minutes. (Kritzinger was hurt in this action and replaced by WP's Marcel Brache.)
It was astonishing - hardly a fitting situation in the do-and-die of a semifinal.
Lock Levi Odendaal then charged down a kick by Franna du Toit, picked up the bouncing ball in skilful fashion and gave to Brache who scored. 28-3 after 22 minutes.
There was an air of unreality about - gleeful unreality on the UCT stand.
The Shimlas mounted an attack of many passes but Charl Weideman dropped the ball and Odendaal picked up. He gave tolock partner Don Armand who gave to No.8 Greg Mallett who sped down the right, passing inside to Brache who got a great, long pass to Haw who scored his second try. 35-3 after 24 minutes.
Catrakilis kicked a penalty and then the Ikeys won a turnover off Whitehead inside their own 22 and set Pietersen running down the left. He gave to ubiquitous Nick Fenton-Wells who gave back to Pietersen who just managed to get over in the corner. The TMO confirmed the try and Catrakilis converted from touch. 45-3.
The Ikeys looked like scoring again when they made an overlap for Haw and the Shimlas should have scored when Enrico Acker broke and scurried for the corner, inexplicably dropping the ball close to the line.
What a breathless half!
The second half started with Catrakilis kicking. It was clearly a change of tactics and a prelude to rugby as dull as ditch water. It was a sloppy half - sloppy scrums, sloppy line-outs, sloppy tackle/rucks, sloppy handling. It went on and on. It was the half the rugby died.
There were a few lively moments.
Acker knocked on and Rijs cut through the Shimlas and a deserved Haw scored his hat-trick try. 50-3.
The liveliest player on the field in this half was a Shimla, a replacement Shimla - Shaun Davids, who went to fullback. He had running in his mind and legs. He started running from his own line and eventually gave left wing Jamba Ulengo a run-in for his side's first try. 50-8 with 25 minutes to go.
The Shimlas bashed and bashed and eventually prop Charles Marais scored in the corner. 50-13 with 14 minutes to go.
Davids broke free and gave to Divandre Strydom as they raced down the field. Strydom gave back to Davids who, near the line, gave to right wing Cameron Jacobs who scored. 50-20 with 11 minutes to go.
In those 11 minutes Strydom was given a yellow card for a tip tackle, Frederick Ngoza was given a yellow card for punching and the 13-man Shimlas won a tighthead. The tighthead came back to bite them for they dropped the ball and Pietersen footed through and completed his hat-trick on full-time.
Afterwards, UCT's excellent captain Nick Fenton-Wells was pleased but calm and aware of the final ahead and all its challenges.
Peter Haw, the Player That Rocks (Man of the Match), scored three tries on the field and heavily off it. His captain gave him the car-hire (the Captain's Choice!) and he then received a pink cap, a smart watch, a pink cheque for R1,000 and 50 pink roses which - he said - would go to his girlfriend.
And so the Ikeys will be going up north for the final; all the remains to see who their opponents will be - FNB UJ or FNB Tuks...
For FNB UCT:
Tries: Pietersen 3, Haw 3, Rijs, Brache
Cons: Catrakilis 7
For FNB Shimlas:
Tries: Ulengo, Marais, Jacobs
UCT: 15 Ricky Rijs, 14 Sabelo Siyakatshana, 13 Therlow Pietersen, 12 Adrian Kritzinger, 11 Pete Haw, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nicholas Farrar, 8 Greg Mallett, 7 Nick Fenton-Wells (captain), 6 Michael Morris, 5 Donovan Armand, 4 Levi Odendaal, 3 Pete Olivier, 2 Matt Page, 1 Wesley Chetty.
Replacements: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Eben Etzebeth, 19 Zandy Macdonald, 20 Ricky Schroeder, 21 Marcel Brache, 22 Mark Winter, 23 Adriaan Botha.
Shimlas: 15 George Whitehead, 14 Cameron Jacobs, 13 Earl Snyman, 12 Charl Weideman, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Franna du Toit, 9 Enrico Acker, 8 Willie Britz (captain), 7 Pieter Labuschagnè, 6 Etienne Terblanche, 5 Joubert Horn, 4 Wilken Heyns, 3 Ian Potgieter, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 John-Henry Harris.
Replacements: 16 JC Van Wyk, 17 Johan van Niekerk, 18 Frederick Ngoza, 19 Erik le Roux, 20 Enrico Schultz, 21 Shaun Davids, 22 Divandre Strydom, 23 Charles Marais.
Referee: Ben Crouse
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman, Marius van der Westhuizen
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
By Paul Dobson (rugby365.com)