UNITED and Wanderers are through to the final of the Rugby Premier League after winning their semifinals in contrasting fashion on Saturday.
Wanderers comfortably beat Western Suburbs 47-21, but United had to dig deep to overcome the defending champions Unam 32-31.
United's victory also brought to an end Unam's dominance of club rugby after they had won the title for the past three years in a row, and will ensure that a new champion will be crowned next Saturday.
In the first semifinal, Wanderers took an early 6-3 lead after two penalties by Rudi Pretorius with Justin Nel replying for Suburbs, but Suburbs scored the first try when Russel van Wyk intercepted the ball and dived over behind the posts for a converted try.
Wanderers, however, immediately drew level when wing Janry du Toit went over after a quick tap penalty, but another penalty by Nel put Suburbs 16-13 ahead at the break.
Suburbs' lead was, however, short-lived as Wanderers came out firing after the break with two tries in five minutes to go 27-16 ahead. Prop Nian Berg first crashed over from a driving maul and then right wing Rudi Pretorius went over after a fine line break by Du Toit.
Suburbs tried hard to come back into the game, but they could not break through Wanderers' committed defence, and a further penalty and conversion by Pretorius and tries by David Philander and Adriaan Booysen put the issue beyond doubt, before Vakomboka Kamboo scored a late consolation try for Suburbs.
The second semifinal between Unam and United was much more intense as both teams gave it their all in an action-packed encounter.
Unam seemed to be well in control when they took a 13-3 lead at halftime, after two penalties by Denver Murorua and a converted try by Hauta Veii.
Another Murorua penalty early in the second half put them 16-3 ahead, but United made a stunning comeback with four tries in quick succession to go 29-16 ahead.
Prop Jason Benade first went over in the right hand corner and when prop Simon Kanime went on a rampaging run to dive over they were just 16-15 behind.
United's stunning comeback continued as wing Nandivatu Karuuombe dived over in the left hand corner and when flanker Naude Neethling dotted down after a fine run by Niel van Vuuren they were suddenly 29-16 ahead.
The momentum swung back in Unam's favour when Benade was red carded for a dangerous tackle, but United defended heroically and despite Unam scoring two tries through Kami Mieze and TC Kisting, United held on for a thrilling victory.
United coach Jood Opperman paid tribute to his players on a fine performance.
“It was a very tough match, but I'm proud of my players who kept to our structures and defended very well,” he said, adding that the victory against Unam was especially sweet.
“That was one of my main targets this year, to provide stronger competition for Unam, and I'm glad we managed to do that,” he added.
Unam coach Johan Diergaardt said the game changed early in the second half when their fly half TC Kisting was yellow carded for an illegal tackle.
“We conceded three tries when TC Kisting was yellow carded early in the second half and from then on we had to play catch up rugby. It was a tough match, but our forwards also dropped us and it was difficult to come back,” he said.
Diergaardt added that he new TMO (television match official) system being used by the Namibia Rugby Union was quite disruptive.
“The new TMO system was quite disruptive. There were long interruptions which broke our momentum, and with only two cameras being used they were not very helpful. I support the idea of a TMO, but if you want to use it you must use it properly with 16 cameras so that you can see all the angles. If they had done that we would have been awarded two more tries,” he said.
He, however, praised his players and said they would come back stronger.
“One can't win forever and I'm satisfied with the run we had. I'm also proud of the characters and men that we have built and this team has a great future - we will be back,” he said.
- Title: UNITED and Wanderers are through to the final of the Rugby Premier League
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- Date: 7:38 PM