Windhoek – Undisputed domestic rugby champions FNB Unam Rugby Club fired a warning to their competitors this term when the students came from behind to forge a narrow 24-23 triumph over their resurgent stablemates, FNB Western Suburbs, in an otherwise entertaining local derby at the latter’s homeground in Windhoek on Saturday.
The opening day of the Namibia Rugby Union (NRU) tier one league produced fireworks, with no less than four local derbies on the cards. However, none of the clashes drew as much attention as the Khomasdal derby between hosts Western Suburbs and reigning champions, Unam.
Playing in front of a partisan crowd, fielding a largely unrecognisable 15, packed with a number of youngsters, the hosts started the match like a house on fire and managed to keep their rampant opponents at bay in the opening stages, although the visitors enjoyed territorial advantage.
The Clever Boys opened their account on the scoreboard with an opportunistic try by Camlo Martin after some good work from a quickly taken penalty-kick, that sent the speedy inside-centre to cross the whitewash in the corner for an unconverted try (5-0).
As the first half progressed, the visitors extended their slender lead with a copybook try by fast-as-lightning winger Chessborought Lawrence, who showed some good hands to round off some excellent teamwork.
Utility fullback Jingly Louis made no mistake in the resulting conversion (12-0).
National team scrumhalf Eugene Jantjies reduced the deficit from two well-taken penalty-kicks, as he atoned for his earlier miss from virtually the same position (12-6).
Outside-centre Lesley Klim touched down for his team’s third try on the stroke of halftime, zigzagging around the flatfooted Suburbs rearguard to deposit the oval ball between the posts – much to the delight of the large crowd.
The educated boot of Louis duly returned the compliment, as he goaled the conversion to give the visitors a well-deserved 19-6 cushion going into the interval.
After a thorough tongue lashing from coach Rudi Witbooi, ‘Suburbs Babes’ came out with guns smoking at the resumption of the second half, pinning their opponents in their own half with a sustained onslaught that eventually paid off.
Imposing winger Collins Omalu registered his name on the scoresheet with a brace of copybook tries to move within earshot of the visitors’ cushion, despite Jantjies’ unsuccessful attempt from one of the conversions (19-16).
Buoyant by a vociferous home crowd, the hosts moved up a gear and started to pay more frequent visits to the students’ territory with a wave of attacks.
They were soon rewarded through Lawrence’s second visit to the whitewash, which was duly goaled by Jantjies to wrestle momentum from their visibly tiring opponents, giving the hosts a glimmer of hope of taking the lead for the first time in the match (23-19).
Sadly, the hosts were dealt a heavy blow when JC Winkler (scrumhalf) and outside centre Darryl Vries both fell foul of referee Said Isaacs’ crimesheet, as he sin-binned the pair in quick succession.
Despite playing against 13 men, Unam could not fully maximise their numerical advantage and had to wait until the dying minutes of the match to deliver the much-needed sucker punch via Klim’s second try of the match. Final score:
Suburbs 23-24 Unam.
In the curtain-raiser, Unam beat Suburbs’ second strings by 24 points to 18 in a nailbiting encounter that had the largely partisan crowd on the edge of their seats for the better part of the grueling 80 minutes of blood, sweat and tears.
Elsewhere, Kudus got their campaign off to a magnificent start after the Narraville outfit saw off their stubborn cross-town rivals, Walvis-Bay Rugby Club, 23-22 in Walvis Bay.
Last season’s Premier League runners-up, Wanderers, won the bragging rights for city derby as the ‘White Stallions’ defeated eternal rivals Trustco United, 35-10.
Down south in Rehoboth, there was very little to separate bitter rivals Rehoboth and Falcon from each other. The former gained the upper hand in the hotly contested local derby, where no quarter was asked or given, but Rehoboth narrowly scraped through with a breathtaking 22-19 scoreline.