by Ant Pascoe (Chilli Legends)
Every once in a while there is a tournament that will shape a team in a significant way. Change it and leave an indelible mark on its history. For Chilli Legends, Rocktober 2017 could well be that tournament.
After almost not qualifying to play due to the initial limitation on two teams per club, Legends was duly offered a place on the Bapsfontein schedule and the players were determined to make it count.
As most Joburgers know, the two things that Capetonians struggle with most are altitude and early mornings. So it was a double whammy that greeted us on day one as we woke to make our way to the fields even before the sun had set on Friday night.
Game one was against fellow coastal-based outfit the Bunnies. The sun rises much earlier in Durban than it does in Cape Town and perhaps, with hindsight, we shouldn’t have been surprised when the ever-competitive Durban side started strongly. Very strongly. The Crustacean Rabbits took the half and opened up a sizeable gap, reaching match point at 11-7.
But Legends have nothing if tenacity and a never-say-die team spirit. 11-7 became eight. Then nine. You could sense the momentum building, but perhaps it was too late. Nine became ten and then eleven. It was going to be Universe Point. Embracing our philosophy of egalitarianism, no line was called and the players who felt they had it in them to do the business took to the field. The decision proved a good one as some of the newer players on the team featured strongly in making the turn and then working it up field via our hexagon offence to score and win.
The close game and the desire to guts it out and fight was to be a feature of our tournament. After a break we squared up against Ah Ouh Puc and again had to come from behind to turn a 6-3 deficit into an 8-6 win. Thereafter we played UCT, Disks of Hazard and Potch Elevations as we finished the day with four wins, one loss, 28 empty legs and a lot of sunburn.
Sunday started early again and this time it was quarter-finals and a match-up against Cape Town rivals, Ghost. For once we started well and opened up a lead, edging our way to the half. But close finishes were becoming a thing from us and from an 11-8 lead in a game to 12 we somehow managed to let our spooky friends back into the game as they stormed back to level matters at 11-11. As they pulled for the last point Ghost had the momentum behind them. We had the wind in our favour. We also had Ghost loanee Marc Lewis on our side. The brave former Gautenger picked up a short pull and flicked a gem into the end zone for the pacey Kevin Durant to box out his man and score.
The protracted nature of the game and the five points scored after hard cap meant that we arrived tired and 20 minutes late for our semi-final. That’s never the best way to rock up for a game against the Long Donkeys and inevitably we started slowly. We picked things up in the second half, more than doubled the number of goals we bagged against them at nationals, but it wasn’t enough as we became another notch on the Donkey’s bedpost as they marched on to take the final.
With a top four place in the bag our last game was the Cinderella game between the two losing semi-finalist. The game was close. Our French visitors were wiley. It was a result that was probably determined by the side that was less tired. And while both sides were running on their reserve tanks it was the Parisian travellers who had a bit more left and they out winners in a closely contested game.
It brought to an end a great year for Chilli Legends. Starting Nationals in 2017 as the 16th seeded team in the land we ended our final tournament in fourth. It was a great tournament. A big up to the organizers for putting it all together. A big thanks to all the teams we met along the way for a weekend of so many memories and plays. And a huge congratulations to the Legends and the Chilli family for their performances on the field and off it. 2018 can’t come soon enough.