Cats’ great escape

Wylie Human scored in injury time to earn the Cats a 34-all draw against the Force, but Andre Pretorius could not kick the touchline conversion for the win.

The Force, who led 21-3 at halftime, were ahead 34-22 with 10 minutes to play and had a chance to win the game through a Cameron Shepherd penalty with two minutes to go. Shepherd missed the kick and the Cats dominated possession in the final two minutes to set up Human’s match-saver.

The Calamity Cats had sunk to new depths in the first half, before producing a sterling fight-back against the Force who had looked for all the world like they were well on their way to their first ever win.

Instead it was draw number two on the trot for the Perth-based outfit, while the Cats can be pleased with their determination after being behind for the entire 80 minutes.

It was perhaps a fitting end to a match that was scrappy for the most part, but dotted with the odd moment of brilliance. Those moments, however, were too few and far between from both teams.

But after the first half in which they produced a performance of such ineptitude that even their most Cats ardent fan would have contemplated cancelling their season ticket, the second half saw the match come alive.

The Cats managed to butcher countless chances and knocked the ball on more times than anyone can remember and minus their captain Wikus van Heerden were woeful in the first 40 minutes, although a certain amount of guts and determination was visible. It probably ranks amongst the worst ever halves by a team in the history of this competition.

A huge indictment of their complete failure to fire was that only once in the entire first half did they get a chance to score points. And that was via a 40m Andre Pretorius penalty.

The Force were equally atrocious, but managed somehow to string enough phases together to force their way through a porous Cats defence. They did this three times before the break, with each score making the Cats look like schoolboys by comparison.

The worst team in the competition came to Johannesburg full of confidence for a win and the trash dished up by the Cats would not have scared them one bit in the first half.

The second half was a little better – especially from an entertainment point of view – but the skills still left a lot to be desired. At the end of the match it was clear to the 11,300 people that bothered to turn up that they had just witnessed the 13th and 14th best teams in this competition.

However, a draw is a step in the right direction, and now Frans Ludeke and his charges must build on that as they look forward to hosting the Blues next weekend.

Cats – Tries: KleinJan Tromp, Delarey du Preez, Jaque Fourie, Willem Stoltz and Wylie Human
Conversions:Andre Pretorius (3). Penalty: Pretorius.
Force – Tries: Scott Staniforth (3), Digby Ioane. Conversions: Cameron Shepherd (4). Penalties: Shepherd (2).

By Andrew Hollely, at Ellis Park

THE MOMENTS THAT MATTER:

75 mins: It is cut and thrust as the Cats can smell a morale-saving win. The Force are hanging on desperately. This one is going down to the wire. Both teams are desperate for the win and its a battle that is raging up front. Cats come away, but Force get penalty and a big kick relieves pressure. Force lineout in Cats half.

69 mins: Cats need to score twice. Scrum Cats 5m out from Force line. Several phases and they get close, but Force defence is strong. Jaque Fourie prominent. Cats just can’t get over gain line. Must be 12 phases at least. Finally Willem Stoltz crashes over, but is nearly pushed over the deadball line. TV ref awards the try. Pretorius kicks the extras and it’s going down to the wire. (Pretorius 4/5)

65 mins: Shepherd slots a penalty to stretch the lead. (Shepherd 6/7)

60 mins: It’s heating up a little and the Cats push. Jaque Fourie scampers through for a try under the sticks. Pretorius is on target. (Pretorius 3/4)

57 mins: Force scrum on Cats 22 near far toucjline. Force control. Earl Rose cleans up after Brock James chips ahead. Cats come away and Jano Vermaak kicks ahead for Wylie Human to chase. Penalty to Cats. Pretorius kicks to touch. Drive is held up. Cats scrum.

53 mins: Its tit for tat now as the Force counter and get a penalty in front. Shepherd makes it look easy. (Shepherd 5/6)

50 mins: The Cats reply almost immediately after looking like having stuffed it up when a huge overlap is on the left. Rose’s decision is not dire as Delarey du Preez is on the end of a move and tip toes in for a try. Pretorius converts. (Pretorius 2/3)

46 mins: The Cats have a scrum on their 22, but kick the ball away and into the gleeful arms of Ioane on the touchline. He feeds Shepherd and he in turn sends Staniforth away for his hat-trick. Shephard converts and the Force have their bonus point. (Shepherd 4/5)

41 mins: Finally a flowing move from the home team sees KleinJan Tromp hit the line at pace outwide and crash over for a try in the corner. Pretorius misses. (Pretorius 1/2)

39 mins: Grant Esterhuizen is monstored in ahuge tackle, but still gets the ball away. Jaque Fourie evades several tackles and looks dangerous, but the move breaks down in the 22.

35 mins: Force attacking with purpose and a great dummy by Staniforth past prop lawrence Sephaka sees him ghost in for another try. Conversion is good. (Shepherd 3/4)

33 mins: Cats fullback Earl Rose is crunched in a tackle, but recovers. It’s mind-numbing stuff for the fans. Knock-ons, dropped passes, poor options and a general malaise. Cats scrum on halfway. Reset. Free kick Force. They run it and burst down the touchline. Cats defending desperately, but knock-on. Scrum Force about 30m out from Cats line.

30 mins: Nothing is working for the home side. The Cats have a scrum and the ball is knocked on by Matt Henjak, but the Cats return the favour. Cats scrum on halfway…Force come away with the ball. Flanker David Pusey hits the line at pace and creates an opening to put Digby Ioane away for the Force’s second try. Shepherd adds extras. (Shepherd 2/3)

24 mins: Following an Andre Pretorius penalty that gives the Cats the lead, the Force attack immediately and score under the poles through Scott Staniforth. (Pretorius 1/1) (Shepherd 1/2)

18 mins: Both teams with sparse chances, but are not using them to full advantage. It’s very scrappy and the small crowd is getting cold. Not much to warm the hearts here. Cats though are showing more endeavour, but everytime they get into a good position they butcher it. Force lineout on halfway.

14 mins: Pretorius puts the penalty out on the 22 after long delay for Henjak injury. Cats lineout. Cats drive and get close. Ball is spun wide and Pretorius tries a chip kick. Conrad Jantjes takes, but is bundled into touch. Go back for Cats penalty. Lineout. Drive again. Over. TV ref called. Held up. Scrum Cats in the corner. Penalty Force. Cats coming from the side.

11 mins: It’s scrappy from both teams, as lack of direction seems the watchword. Eventually the Cats, playing with great guts and determination earn a penalty on halfway about 8m in from touch.

6 mins: Force run at the Cats. Penalty to Force for coming in from side. They run and great hands from Shepherd sees him get close, but he loses the ball as he goes over the line. Scrum Cats 5m out. Turnover ball. Force penalty in front. Scrum to Force. Great attacking position. Force drive and get another penalty. This time lineout 5m out.

3 mins: Cats get turnover ball and attack, but a thumping tackle on Grant Esterhuizen in midfield sees him lose the ball. Scrum Force. Cats penalised for scrumming in. Cameron Shepherd opts for posts…and it hits the post. Cats try to run it, but evenyually sanity previals and it’s kicked out. (Shepherd 0/1)

1 min: The Force kick-off. After some kicking, the ball goes out just inside the Force half. Lineout to Force.