Demetri Catrakilis's cool goal-kicking separated the two finalists at Newlands on Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The scoreboard will reflect a 19-16 win for Western Province. The scorecard will confirm that, through flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis, WP slotted all five attempts on goal. In that respect, they showed terrific composure and ticker. With that stat in mind, you’d have to say that they took their chances and deserved to win the title.
But how different things may have been had the Golden Lions shown the same mettle in front of goal. As it was, between Marnitz Boshoff and Ruan Combrinck, the Lions missed five of their nine attempts, including the 80-minute opportunity that would have tied the game.
Had Boshoff converted that penalty and levelled the scores, the game would have gone into extra time. Had the Lions won the game from there, then the allegations of suspect composure would have been directed at WP instead of at the Lions.
Province dominated the first half, as the 13-0 scoreline confirms. However, it should also be noted that the Lions missed three penalty attempts during this period, and also made some unforgivable handling mistakes. Their defence was too passive, and their decision-making poor, especially in those key positions of No 9 and 10.
Over the course of the season, WP have been vulnerable in that period after half-time. In the final on Saturday, they conceded 13 unanswered points as the Lions fought their way back into the contest. Catrakilis was excellent in front of goal, but some poor line-kicking would gift the Lions some terrific counter-attacking chances.
The Lions scrum was dominant throughout, although Ross Cronjé and Boshoff battled to make this advantage tell. In general, the Lions attack was well contained by the WP defence. Boshoff had two drop-goal attempts charged down by a defender.
Province deserved to win this game, but it’s hard to say that they showed any great composure at the death. After all, it was an infringement by a WP player at the last maul that gifted Boshoff a last-gasp shot at goal.
And one cannot discount the influence of the partisan Newlands crowd in those final moments. Boshoff’s kick couldn’t have been taken from a more difficult angle: on the right-hand side of the field for a right-footed kicker, and some 40m from the WP tryline.
It was in these few seconds where the Newlands faithful delivered a deafening collective boo. It was disappointing for the neutral to experience. It was anything but sporting.
However, the best kickers are capable of rising above such things. The best kickers will overcome the pressure to convert those opportunities and win championships for their team.
Catrakilis did that for WP on Saturday. His performance in open play wasn’t great, but ultimately his goal-kicking showing would prove invaluable. On Saturday, the Lions goal-kickers failed to show the same temperament, and this would cost their side the title.
Photo: Luigi Bennett/Gallo Images