Stalemate in Paarl

The 80th meeting between Paarl Gymnasium and Paarl Boys High ended in a thrilling 19-19 draw at the Faure Street sports field.

And after 70 minutes of pulsating play, maybe it was fitting that the two arch-rivals could not be separated as both sides had their moments to win it and with it bragging rights for another year.

Gym went into this derby ranked three places higher as the No 2 school in the country, but it was they who were the more tentative in the opening exchanges in front of a capacity crowd of 25 000, before gaining the ascendancy in the latter stages of the first quarter. Their forwards tackled manfully to a man and producing some promising pick-and-go ball to keep their opponents pinned down in their 22.

But Paarl Boys, after incumbent Western Province Craven Week flyhalf Gavin Haupfleisch had put them in front via a penalty goal in the second minute, were not going to lie down and fought back with some fine defensive play in those initial stages. Gym drew level with a fine 30m drop goal from the boot of flyhalf Lance Rutherford and then two minutes later in the 12th scrumhalf Willie Viljoen was successful with a penalty goal to put his side ahead 6-3. Hauptfleisch levelled matters with his second three-pointer in the 17th minute.

The game was being kept tight among the two evenly-matched packs, with little ball moving down the backline, before a mistake from Gym, under little pressure in open play, saw their rivals pounce. The lost ball was quickly controlled at the breakdown and recycled from within Gym’s 22 down the left side to Devon Williams, the left winger doing well to hold onto a thunderbolt low pass from captain Stephan Coetzee to dot down in his corner. Hauptfleisch added the extra two points from an acute angle to put his side in front again 13-6 in the 23rd minute.

Gym, no doubt stung by the sudden turnaround, continued to dominate territory and possession, but some individualistic play in promising positions prevented any real threat on their opponents’ line. But they were able to force a couple of penalties in the closing five minutes of the half which Viljoen duly landed to cut back the deficit to 13-12 at the break.

Gym, who were protecting an unbeaten record on the local front, came out firing in the second period, but once again some selfish moments stemmed hopes of a breakthrough. Paarl Boys did well to hold their defensive lines under constant pressure but the heavy tackle count was beginning to take its toll.

Gym had a chance to close the gap to one point but Viljoen was off target with an acute-angled penalty. Hauptfleisch, whose clearance kicks under pressure were massive in relieving pressure for Paarl Boys, was again on target with his third penalty to increase the lead to 16-12 with 25 minutes to play.

Paarl Boys then enjoyed a solid passage of play and were able to apply some much-needed pressure on Gym’s line and a desperate lunge for the line by a marauding pack on the drive saw the ball held up short within inches of a try. But Gym were penalised in the process and Hauptfleich kept a perfect kicking record to make it five from five with a superb touchline effort to extend the lead to 19-12.

Now it was Gym feeling the heat inside their half in the closing quarter, but just as their rivals had done, they were able to force an opening from within their half and powerful Western Province centre Kobus van Wyk slid through a gap in defence and muscled his way over for the try, converted by Viljoen to level the scores at 19-19 and set up a nail-biting finish with seven minutes to play.

Gym sent in one wave after another in search of victory only to be denied by a foe committed till the very end.

By Mike de Bruyn