Rovers win Castle Murray Cup after titanic struggle

Jonsson College Rovers clinched a fourth consecutive Castle Murray Cup on Saturday after defeating a gutsy Telnet Crusaders 27-21 in the final. Rovers held their nerve after overcoming a severe test of character from their opponents in what can only be described as a great advert for club rugby. Many had tipped Rovers to steamroll their opponents and win at a canter but how wrong they were.

The game got off to a cagey start and once again the forwards from both teams were in sublime form. The Crusaders prop and captain, Ronnie Uys, led his troops from the front as they took the game to their opponents and this led to them taking the lead from a successful fourth minute penalty from full back Armand Botha. After some tough tackling and heavy hits from both sides, Rovers scored the first try courtesy of fullback Chris Jordaan with the successful conversion by Jors Dannhauser to give them a 7-3 lead. Further successful penalty attempts from either side made it 10-6 in favour of Rovers as the game headed towards half time.

The Crusaders trio of Ronnie Uys, Thulani Ngidi and Austin Ntuli were putting in the hard yards as Crusaders defied the odds and hung in. A lapse in concentration allowed Rovers to grab their second try right on the stroke of half-time from winger Kobus de Kock. That took the score to 15-6 going into the break. There were lots of whispers and a look of surprise from the spectators as the underdogs had put in a spirited fight. Rovers were quick out of the blocks and they got their third try via their star man, Jors Dannhauser, which took the score to 20-6. It was feared at the time that the game was slipping away from Crusaders and that their resilient display would fade away, but they proved everyone wrong.

They bounced back with a 52nd minute try. With their first choice kicker Botha out injured, they failed with the conversion but the score was reduced to 20-11. That try seemed to have galvanised the team and to everyone's surprise they got another from Austin Ntuli who was having a storming game. The conversion was unsuccessful but the game had been turned on its head with Rovers leading 20-16.

Rovers were given a kick in the rear and with a very concerned looking bench they struck again to register their fourth and possibly the match-winning try from scrumhalf Shannon Rick. The conversion was successful as Rovers took a 27-16 lead going into the final five minutes. However, Crusaders were not done and they scored another try via Hubert de Haas to make it 27-21 with a few minutes to go.

There was to be no fairy-tale ending for the Durban North outfit as Rovers held their nerve to win the tournament. A relieved Johnno Brailey was happy to have won but gave credit to the spirited performance of their opponents. Brailey said: "Hats off to Crusaders, they were excellent today and made a real fist of it. I was very concerned at half-time but I am glad my boys showed their determination in the second half and pulled through."

The Crusaders coach, Loedewyk Riekert, was in high spirits despite the defeat and was quick to heap praise on his players. "Congratulations to Rovers but as far as I am concerned we are also winners for the manner in which we played," he said. "I am very proud of the boys and everyone involved in turning the fortunes of the club around. It all bodes well for next season with the talented youngsters coming through."

The man of the match award went to Crusaders prop, Thulani Ngidi. He was ecstatic after the match and said that it was all down to hard work, courage and determination. The most valuable player of the tournament went to Jors Dannhauser. At the end of it all rugby was the winner and the curtain came down on another successful Castle Murray Cup competition.

Ismail Adam