The Danie Craven stadium was brought to its feet on Monday evening when FNB Maties finally got the monkey off their back as they clinched their fourth Varsity Cup trophy. It has taken seven years and three consecutive finals for the Maroon Machine to finally break their trophy drought.
The boisterous sell-out crowd at the stadium on Monday sang FNB NWU off the field in the 79th minute when replacement prop Ricky Nwagbara scored for the home team taking the final score to 40-7 with the conversion by flyhalf Chris Smith.
FNB Maties started their third consecutive final on a good note. The home team certainly were looking to catch FNB NWU out wide and they did on numerous occasions but were let down by their composure in crucial areas inside FNB NWU’s territory.
For all their control, it would only be in the 19th minute when FNB Maties would open the scoring. The home team’s dominant scrum, which has been a key feature all season earned them a penalty try. FNB Maties pinned themselves on FNB NWU’s five metre and with three consecutive penalties, referee AJ Jacobs awarded the seven points FNB Maties’ way.
FNB Maties extended their lead in the 31st minute through Smith who slotted a drop goal, yet it would be FNB NWU who would have the last say of the first half as they cut down their deficit to three through via a Tiaan Bezuidenhout try. Schalk Hugo slotted the conversion and the visiting team went into the half time break trailing 10-7.
FNB Maties struck early in the second half. After the kickoff, FNB NWU strung together a couple of phases before a looping pass was well read by winger Edwill van der Merwe who intercepted for a seven point try. Smith added the extras and all of a sudden FNB Maties were 19-7 ahead.
FNB Maties lock Johan Momsen would extend the home side’s lead to 26 points in the 53rd minute when he barged over from close range and from there FNB Maties looked on course to claim the Varsity Cup trophy and claim it they did. From there on, it was a matter of game management for FNB Maties.
The Maroon Machine kept their shape on attack and were equally good on defence. The home team didn’t stop probing though and would get just reward when Munier Hartzenberg sealed the deal for the home team before Nwagbara confirmed the result: FNB Maties – Varsity Cup champions, 2018.
FNB Player That Rocks: Johan van Niekerk (FNB Maties)
FNB Player That Rocks: Walt Steenkamp (NWU)
FNB Back That Rocks: Duncan Saal (Maties)
FNB Forward That Rocks: Marno Redelinghuys (Maties)
FNB Maties: 40
Tries: Edwill van der Merwe; Johan Momsen; Munier Hartzenberg; Ricky Nwagbara
Cons: Chris Smith (4)
Drop goals: Chris Smith
FNB NWU: 7
Tries: Tiaan Bezuidenhout
Cons: Schalk Hugo