Toti Prevail

The Castle Murray Cup final lived up to its much anticipated billing as Amanzimtoti fought tooth and nail to defeat Varsity College 24-21 after extra time. In what can only be described as one of the most gripping finals in recent memory, Toti scored two quickfire tries deep into the second half of extra-time to snatch victory after the teams had played to a 14-14 draw after 80 minutes.

Incidentally. this was the second successive Murray Cup final to have finished in a draw after normal time. The victory sparked scenes of jubilation for Toti and their huge following that arrived in buses to support their team.

The match got off to an explosive start as centre Louis Joubert scored for Toti barely two minutes after kick-off to give them a 5-0 lead. Varsity College were surprised and began to claw their way back into the match. It was a fiercely-contested half and three penalties from Toti's Wimpie Pretorious and two from Varsity College's Zaan-Pierre Bezuidenhout saw the teams go into the half time break with Toti leading 14-6.

The second half continued in the same manner with neither team refusing to back down. Varsity College's fullback, Bezuidenhout, got their first try reducing the deficit to 14-11. A further penalty from him in the final five minutes of normal time brought the scores level at 14-14. The match went into extra-time and the huge crowd were left on tenterhooks. During the first period of extra time, a moment of magic from Varsity College's winger Sizo Maseko with a scintillating run set up Waldo Weideman. The successful conversion saw Varsity College lead 21-14.

But Toti were not done. They hung in and began to show their determination and just when it looked as though time was running out for them, they struck. Captain Corne du Toit crossed over in the corner in the 95th minute to give them hope. A missed conversion saw Toti reduce the gap 21-19 and prevent a nightmare scenario of the teams being level after extra time.

There was more drama to follow. With just two minutes left on the clock Toti launched one final attack and they got their winning try from Louis Joubert. The conversion was missed but it was enough to give them a 24-21 victory and break Varsity College's supporters' hearts.

A delighted Jeff Harper, Toti's coach, was overcome with emotion amid scenes of jubilation.

"Absolutely amazing, unbelievable," he said after the match. "I thought at 14-all, fitness was going to be a critical factor. I just had a feeling that something was going to happen, even with us trailing heading into the final minutes of exra-time. Well done to the boys for keeping the belief.

"Credit must also be given to our opponents who gave it their all. There is not much separating these teams and it showed. This is a great feeling and our loyal fans played a huge part in this victory."

The Castle Man of the Match award of R5000 went to Toti's Sabata Mokachane. The leading try scorer of the tournament was Toti's Pieter Harmse with five tries and the most valuable player of the tournament went to Varsity College's Biselele Tshamala.

Ismail Adam