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Hilton snatches astonishing victory at Michaelhouse

By Brad Morgan , in Featured | Main Rugby | Featured Rugby | News , at 2024-06-16 Tags: , ,

An extraordinary winning try snatched a 26-25 victory for Hilton College over Michaelhouse on Meadows on Saturday.

For a second season in succession, the away team won both games, and for the second season in succession the cumulative scores of the great rivals were even.

Michaelhouse had won 24-23 on Gillfillan Field on 4 May and they appeared to be on course for their first season’s sweep since 2015 when they went 22-7 up with a try seven minutes into the second half on Saturday.

That try, scored by Connor McAlpine in the left-hand corner, came from a long-range counterattack. It was a rare exit from their half for Michaelhouse during the second stanza. Hilton, down 7-17 at the break, dominated possession and territory after half-time.

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There’s an expression that goes “death by a thousand cuts”. In this instance, it was victory by a thousand busts.

Time and again, Hilton ground their way up the field with pick-and-goes, busting it up, putting dents into the Michaelhouse defence, occasionally cutting through, and, in the end, it got them within sight of ‘House. Then came that extraordinary winning try.

With three minutes to play, and with Michaelhouse hanging onto a 25-21 lead, ‘House flyhalf Luke Davidson sent a punt down to just outside of the Hilton 22. It was fielded by fullback Ivan Jjuuko, who broke inside from his left-hand touchline. Then, from midfield, about 15 metres inside his own half, he let fly with a long kick.

It came down about 10 metres shy of the home side’s try line and kept rolling over the try line and towards the left-hand corner. Three Michaelhouse players followed it into the in-goal area. The ball headed towards the dead-ball line.

Hilton left-wing Ricky Adonis kept chasing as Michaelhouse held off, waiting for the ball to cross the back line, which would give them a scrum from where Jjuuko had kicked the ball. Then, running parallel to the touchline, right wing Seb Gaboreau flashed through. He dived, right arm outstretched and forced the ball down as the Michaelhouse defenders looked on.

The assistant referee gave referee Aimee Barrett-Theron the thumbs-up. Gaboreau had grounded the ball mere centimetres from the whitewash.

Barrett-Theron quickly conferred with her assistant as the Hilton players celebrated in the corner. Then, she blew her whistle and confirmed the five-pointer. That proved to be the winning score. It’s why this game will long be remembered.

The vigorous support along the side of the field created a wall of sound throughout the contest.
The vigorous support along the side of the field created a wall of sound throughout the contest.

Credit to Hilton, whose first try also came from some sharp thinking and finishing. It gave them an early 7-0 lead.

Their flyhalf Xola Bakana had made a hash of a drop goal attempt from inside the Michaelhouse 22. His low kick was charged down and ricocheted into the hosts’ possession.

Michaelhouse prop Aphiwe Shelembe dived on and secured the ball in front of the home team’s try line. When it emerged from the back of the ruck, as scrumhalf Jack Hughes went to pick it up, Hilton centre Daniel Sweeney, alertly, dived over the ruck and forced the ball down. It was in the in-goal area and the visitors were on the board.

This time Bakana’s kick was good, and Hilton led 7-0.

Stung, Michaelhouse responded well to the setback, quickly working their way deep into the Hilton half. From a five-metre scrum, they drove the ball up towards the Hilton try line. Then, in front of the posts, they received a penalty when Hanu Pieterse and company strayed offsides.

‘House opted for a kick at goal. Davidson knocked it over and the hosts were on the board.

Three minutes later, they took the lead. After a period of sustained attack, through six phases of play, they drew the Hilton defence in. Then, when the ball was swung to the left, fullback Aya Mkokheli sold a dummy and zipped between two defenders. Jjuuko brought him to ground, but as Mkokheli went down, he turned inside and popped the ball up for Connor McAlpine.

Loosehead prop Oliver Proudfoot hit him low, but the wing’s momentum carried him over the try line. Davidson, with an assist from the left upright, made it 10-7 to Michaelhouse.

Michaelhouse was playing with confidence and their play flowed. From the kick-off, some sharp handling from Shelembe put his captain Carlyle Hawkins into a gap.

The 8th-man charged up towards the Hilton 22. Then, when he was met by a would-be tackler, he passed around his left shoulder back to the inside, where Rourke O’Sullivan, cutting in, received the ball. He saw open space in front of him and raced through to score beneath the uprights. Another Davidson conversion made it 17-7.

Michaelhouse supporters throw their hands in the air in celebration as Rourke O'Sullivan crosses for Michaehouse's second try.
Michaelhouse supporters throw their hands in the air in celebration as Rourke O’Sullivan crosses for Michaehouse’s second try.

After the break, Hilton was onto the attack early, but a spilled pass, just outside the Michaelhouse 22 created a counterattacking opportunity and the home team made it count.

They took the ball blind where Davidson found Mkokheli on his outside and the no. 15 accelerated through a gap after a slight show of the ball.

When Jjuuko confronted him on the Hilton 10-metre line, Mkokheli fed McAlpine, on his outside, and the left-wing stretched out his legs to make the dive for five in the left-hand corner.

With a 15-point lead, Michaelhouse was in a strong position.

Hilton reacted by rolling up their sleeves and relentlessly working the pick-and-go. They were almost in for a try, but Michaelhouse held them up. That was a temporary reprieve for the home side.

Pieterse drove off the back of the five-metre scrum and after a couple more charges at the line, Meyer Malherbe crashed over for a try. Bakana tacked on the extras to make the score 22-14.

Michaelhouse secured possession soon after the restart and forced their way into the Hilton 22, where they were stopped, but the visitors were pinged for going offsides and Davidson had an easy kick from almost directly in front of the posts. He popped it over and ‘House enjoyed an 11-point advantage after 45 minutes of play. Their half-time lead had increased by a point.

Hilton, trusting their game plan, stuck to it and surged onto the offensive. Again, after six phases of driving it up at the line with their forwards, Hilton was held up when over the whitewash.

Twice Hilton crossed the Michaelhouse try line but were held up.
Twice Hilton crossed the Michaelhouse try line but were held up.

Then, from a penalty five metres out, Hanu Pieterse was stopped just short of the line. A flat pass wide to the right picked out hooker Josh Grant. He dived low and hard and was over in the shadow of the uprights.

Bakana added two more points with the conversion, bringing the visitors to within four at 21-25.

For the next 15 minutes, there was no score. Then came that dramatic winner.

A charge down of an attempted clearance by Jjuuko in the second meeting of the teams in 2023 had helped Michaelhouse to a 18-15 win at Hilton. This time around it was Jjuuko’s boot which helped secure the win.


Michaelhouse 25 (17) – Tries: Connor McAlpine (2), Rourke O’Sullivan; Conversions: Luke Davidson (2); Penalties: Luke Davidson (2). Hilton College 26 (7) – Tries: Daniel Sweeney, Meyer Malherbe, Josh Grant, Seb Gaboreau; Conversions: Xola Bakana (3).

Other Results:

u19 – Michaelhouse II 24 Hilton II 24; Michaelhouse III 28 Hilton III 22; Michaelhouse IV 50 Hilton IV 12; Michaelhouse V 26 Hilton V 7; Michaelhouse VI 57 Hilton VI 0; Michaelhouse VII 12 Hilton VII 17; Michaelhouse VIII 42 Hilton VIII 12

u16 – Michaelhouse A 20 Hilton A 19; Michaelhouse B 70 Hilton B 7; Michaelhouse C 50 Hilton C 0

u15 – Michaelhouse A 8 Hilton A 33; Michaelhouse B 56 Hilton B 5: Michaelhouse C 20 Hilton C 0; Michaelhouse D 45 Hilton D 5

u14 – Michaelhouse A 15 Hilton A 24; Michaelhouse B 7 Hilton B 12; Michaelhouse C 24 Hilton C 19; Michaelhouse D 50 Hilton D 7

Brad Morgan
error: Sorry ol' chap, those shenanigans are not permissible.