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Narrow defeat for UJ in opening FNB Varsity Cup clash in Bloemfontein

In a fierce opening contest away from home, the University of Johannesburg’s (FNB UJ) Senior Men’s Rugby Team agonizingly fell short in their match against Central University of Technology (FNB CUT Ixias).

At the end, Ixias prevailed 23-19 after they had been 20-0 up after 50 minutes.

In the first half, CUT opened the score with a penalty in the 7th minute and a second penalty in the 22nd minute to lead 6-0 on the back of two FNB UJ mistakes.

In the 35th minute, the FNB CUT Ixias managed to break the FNB UJ defense to score their first try, successfully converted, taking the score to 13 points.

Despite their concerted efforts, FNB UJ could not break down the hosts’ defense, and the half ended with CUT leading 13-0.

The half time team talk inspired the FNB UJ gents to pull themselves together for a comeback in the second half, with improved attack and defense. However, the FNB CUT Ixias scored another try and a conversion to make it 20-0 two minutes into the second half.

UJ vs CUT in opening 2024 FNB Varsity Cup match in Bloemfontein

UJ finally got over the line after 52 minutes with a point of origin try which is worth 7-points and the conversion added two to make it 20-9. A dubious penalty saw CUT extend their lead by 3 points whereafter UJ attacked the gain line, scoring two further tries, both unconverted. UJ had numerous opportunities to score the decisive try and win the game, but was unable to create the final play.

Speaking on the team’s performances, FNB UJ player Phillip Apea-Adu said that lack of discipline let the team down in the first half. “It’s not right to come to a game and not be mentally present in the first half, giving away so many penalties. We were able to get ourselves back in the game in the second half, but it was too little too late,” he said.

FNB UJ’s Vice-Captain, Prince Nkabinde, gave the Orange Army (UJ) a glimmer of hope by scoring an impressive 7-point try with UJ’s build-up play from their own half. Rowen Malgas converted to give UJ their first 9-points in the match in the 49th minute. The hosts extended their lead scoring a 3-point penalty from UJ’s error in the 58th minute.

UJ’s Likhona Tengimfene responded with two tries in the 62nd and 66th minutes to reduce UJ’s deficit at 19-23 with the hosts still in the lead. With two unsuccessful kicks from Malgas, FNB UJ fell short of just four points to equal FNB CUT Ixias at full time.

Apea-Adu said that the team will rectify their mistakes in the next UJ home fixture. “Obviously, we know as a team that when we get to the 22, we have to execute and score points. In the second half, we did not execute in the right areas and that let us down. We must not allow ourselves to trail like we did in the first half because that bites us in the end trying to score points and the clock winding down.”

In the next fixture, FNB UJ takes on the University of Free State (FNB UFS Shimlas) at the UJ Rugby Stadium in Westdene on Monday, 26 February 2024 at 16:45.

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