Rovers Crowned Champions

In a hard-fought, entertaining final, Jonsson College Rovers were crowned 2012 Castle Murray Cup champions after holding out 27-21 against a committed Telnet Crusaders side.

The final was contested at a well-supported Riverside Sports Club on Saturday afternoon and despite pre-match predictions favouring Rovers, it was Crusaders who nearly upset the applecart which is made all the more remarkable considering the tough journey they have travelled in a season where they battled to put a side together for their opening game of the season.

With international referee Marius Jonker in the middle, the referee fitting the occasion, it was always going to be a big affair with Telnet Crusaders enjoying the better of the early stages and fullback Armand Botha converting an early penalty to put his team in the lead.

Despite the differences in their season's fortunes, there wasn't much between the two sides as is the way in finals, Crusaders certainly not overawed by the occasion as they threw themselves enthusiastically into every contact situation, probably overshadowing their illustrious opponents in the opening 10 minutes.

It took Rovers almost 20 minutes to get on the scoreboard when Chris Jordaan outstripped the defence with a good try that put his team in the lead, Jors Dannhauser adding the touchline conversion.

Not a minute later, they found themselves down to 14 men when centre Jean Botha was sin-binned and his namesake converted an easy penalty to pull back to just one point.

Rovers added a penalty of their own as, for the second time, Crusaders were punished for not finding their jumper at a defensive lineout.

However, Rovers were further reduced with another yellow card following repeated infringements, especially at lineout time, which gave Crusaders a sniff of some kind of reward, which they sadly failed to reap.

Of particular interest was the powerful scrum from the less-fancied Crusaders, with massive Ronnie Uys lending plenty of bulk and power to his team's front row as they gave Rovers a torrid time at the setpiece, with Rovers reciprocating with a disruptive effort at the lineouts.

Jean Botha atoned for his earlier indiscretion when he powered over strongly after returning from the side of the field to score Rovers' second try on the stroke of half-time to take his team into a 15-6 lead at the break.

After an opening period of the second half where both sides tested each other, Rovers had their third try after a good build-up, Dannhauser getting in on the act as he scored in the corner, although he could not convert from out wide.

At this stage it was all Rovers but the game would change quite dramatically in the remaining period of the game.

Crusaders didn't take long in their counter as hooker Zandre Grobelaar scored his team's first try of the game, even if they were chasing a match in which it was looking increasingly like Rovers would again take the silverware.

However, Crusaders weren't down and out yet and a quick tap and drive, well-supported by Ronnie Uys, saw them in for their second try and a potentially very interesting final quarter of an hour with just four points separating the two teams.

However, Rovers wouldn't make it easy for Crusaders and when scrumhalf Shannon Rick scored his team's fourth try with the conversion successful, Rovers appeared to be back in control.

With five minutes remaining on the clock, Crusaders got in for their third try, Hubert de Haas scoring in the corner, setting the game up for a thrilling last few minutes. However, with possession changing hands a number of times in the final few minutes of a furious finale to the game, anything looked possible, but Rovers would once again hold out.

The Castle Man of the Match, adjudicated by former Shark and Springbok AJ Venter, was Crusaders prop Thulani Ngidi.

The leading try-scorer award was shared by Anton Verster and Angelo Miniettie, representing both teams.

Most Valuable Pplayer of the tournament, also selected by AJ Venter, was Jors Dannhauser from Rovers.

Thanks to Castle for their generous support of this wonderful rugby competition that captures the imagination of the club scene this time each year.

Click here to view the result of the results

Michael Marnewick