And forever onwards marches the Gym machine
A delightfully spirited display by Bishops on a lovely warm May morning was not enough to prevent them losing 3-24 to visitors Paarl Gym on the Piley Rees Field on Saturday 18 May 2013.
The doomsayers who predicted a cricket-score victory margin for Gym after Bishops’ poor showing at home against SACS last week were made to eat their words as the home side held their own for long stretches at a time against their more fancied opponents.
Not only that, but they proved that they too were brimful of ideas, often turning defensive situations into probing attacks, with centre Mike Mynhardt and full-back Gerard Pieterse particularly prominent. Several devoted Gimmie supporters graciously even conceded that, had the willowy Pieterse, whose creative flair won him the Man of the Match award, been on their side, he would, in all likelihood, have scored several tries.
In the end, a home win was never really on the cards as two tries, the first of which full-back Grant Hermanus goaled, by the visitors’ captain, no. 8 Rikus Bothma, both following storming forward drives, gave his side a 12-0 lead – which proved to be the half-time score – as early as the eleventh minute.
Bishops had the better of the early exchanges, much to the spectators’ – and, apparently, their own – surprise, their first threatening attack coming when Mynhardt cut through the defence on a great angled run, only for the home team to concede a penalty for holding onto the ball.
Shortly after Bothma’s second visit to the try-line Pieterse scythed through the northern Paarl defence at blistering speed, his foray being ended just five metres short of the line.
The visitors were hardly resting on their laurels, with playmaker inside centre Ryan Oosthuizen sparking several sweeping backline movements, none of which yielded points, either because of determined defence by Bishops or uncustomarily wayward final passes. Indeed, the first period ended with a knock-on near the line by the visitors after a superb break by outside centre Wayno Visagie.
A penalty by flyhalf Ty Wills gave the hosts renewed heart, another break by Pieterse being stopped just short. However, Bishops’ overzealousness in the ensuing ruck resulting in the yellow-carding of flank Mervano de Silva for a repeat offence.
Gym immediately made their numerical advantage count, driving Bishops back before switching play smoothly from the left-hand touchline to the right, creating a gift of a try for hooker Wilner Conradie. Hermanus added the conversion to put Gym 19-3 up.
Back came the hosts with renewed vigour, only for a harsh decision by the referee – who punished the home side for holding on in a ruck when it appeared that Gym had dived over the top – to scupper yet another possible chance.
With passions rising to fever point on the stands, one might have been forgiven for thinking Bishops had won the game, such was the applause when Gym flank Lohandré Luus received a yellow card for repeatedly slowing Bishops ruck-ball clearance.
Towards the end of the game the boys from the Winelands stepped up a gear and a fine sprint down the left touchline saw left wing JD du Toit forced out inches from the corner flag.
Bishops struggled to relieve the concerted pressure being exerted on them and looked a beaten side for the first time when lock Sam Mitchell was carried off five minutes from the final whistle.
Just before the end another dazzling switch of play from left to right, in which a crisp 30 metre pass by tireless flank Jacques Vermeulen created a triple overlap, presented Hermanus with one of the easiest tries of his career to end the scoring – and the match – at Bishops 3 Paarl Gym 24.
Gym continue to look invincible, with Bothma, Vermeulen and lock JD Schickerling foraging relentlessly, aided in no small part by the rest of the pack. That they could win this comfortably without fielding Leaviel Gouws, Dylon Fairbridge or Wyatt Murphy says much for their enviable depth.
The home side were never disgraced and will be encouraged by the return of Saud Abrahams in the latter stages. Early on, the backline looked a bit static, but, as soon as nippy scrumhalf Sean van Rensburg and Wills had established an understanding, they contributed enormously to a rousing spectacle.
Next week the Platinum Blues visit Wynberg while Paarl Gym finally have their first home game of the season when Rondebosch come calling in what should be a cracker !
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