ITHEMBELIHLE narrowly lost 26-24 at the hands of touring English school, Lancaster Royal Grammar School, at the New Brighton Oval yesterday.
Lancaster started brightly with a dominant display by the forwards and were rewarded for their possession and power when flyhalf Tom Deakin crossed over the line and converted to give his side a deserved 7-0 lead. But Itembelihle struck back with some good running rugby that saw inside centre Lwandile Babalele slip through a tackle and score under the poles. Flyhalf Siya Ntsangani converted to level matters.
Moments later Ithembelihle scored again after a fanstastic break through the Lancaster midfield with the superb Sipho Ngwanalangwala scoring Ithembelihle’s second try.
Flyhalf Ntsangani converted – 14-7 in favour of the hosts. An immediate response from the visitors saw Lancaster equal the score with a well worked lineout and drive, with captain Griff Lewis scoring the try and Deakin converting to make it 14-14 at half time.
The second half saw Ithembelihle regain the ascendancy with a penalty which Ntsangani converted to give his side a 17-14 lead. Ithembelihle made further inroads after sloppy defending allowed flank Vusumzi Faku to break through and score the home side’s final try, with Ntsangani converting to put them further in front at 24-14.
Lancaster regrouped and stuck to the basics, which paid off when a lineout resulted in winger Alex Gardener crossing the line to revive hopes of a comeback. But still Ithembelihle led 24-19.
Now with the wind in their sails the boys from Lancashire pushed on and with one minute on the clock the pressure paid off and Lancaster levelled the scores once more through a Oliver Jacques try, followed by a last-gasp penalty that won Lancaster the game.
"It was a good game for both teams. This was only our second game of the season. We’re going to get better and better” Ithembelihle coach Theo Pieterse said.