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Six in a row for St George’s

St George’s maintained their recent dominance over St Paul’s in their FNB Classic Clashes rivalry with a 2-0 victory on Wednesday. 

First half goals by captain Gabrielle Micheletti and Benny Hanghome saw them winning the trophy for the sixth successive time, with St Paul’s last triumph now stretching back to 2016.

St Paul’s attacked hard after the break but St George’s defence stood firm and repelled their efforts until the final whistle. 

St George’s did the early attacking and after winning two early corners, they started to test St Paul’s defence with their quick, short-passing game. 

Ujee Kuzeeko opened their account after running onto a defence-splitting pass by Henrino Witbooi and beating St Paul’s goalie, Innocent Shapi with an angled shot into the far corner.

St George’s continued to attack, with Kuzeeko and captain Gabriele Micheletti prominent, and stretched their lead just before halftime when Shapi couldn’t collect a high ball under pressure, and Benny Hanghome pounced to put the loose ball into the net. 

St Paul’s upped the tempo after the break and started creating chances of their own, with Nyasha Kurasha and substitute Abraham Graham prominent in midfield.

Yanis Philander headed narrowly wide from a freekick; a close-range shot by Uatjiri Hewicke was blocked; and Noah Nell failed to capitalise on a great pass by Mandla Sibanda into the box.

St George’s defence stood firm and in the final minutes, goalie Shiloh Black saved bravely at the feet of Yanis Philander to snuff out St Paul’s last dangerous effort. 

Gareth Cloete of St George’s coaching team said that their tactics worked out well. 

“I think both teams started off a bit nervous, so for the first ten minutes it was a bit of a boxing match, but we grew into the game and managed to score two goals in the first half which put the game to bed. 

“We expected them to come at us in the second half, we knew they had a dangerman up front so we had to make sure our defence was on point today and they did a tremendous job, I must commend them for how they played,” he added.

Cloete said the encounter was the highlight on their sporting calendar and that they they had prepared very well.

“The Classic Clashes is the highlight of the year for our players. Everybody dreams of playing and making the Classic Clashes team, so we started off by taking our boys u15 and u17 teams on a tour during June, while our u19s stayed behind and practised during the holiday. 

“After the tour we organised some tough matches to specifically prepare for this day, so it was all part of a bigger plan and I’m just very happy that it all came together,” he said. 

The win was especially poignant for Cloete since it will be his last one before relocating to Cape Town with his family later this year. 

“Its been an exciting journey for me, I’ve been at St George’s for almost 20 years, so the school is very close to my heart, but it’s time for a new journey. As you know, I’m involved in cricket as well, and I’m looking forward to furthering my cricketing career in South Africa,” he said.  

Cloete coached Wanderers this year and had a very successful season as they made a clean sweep of all the titles and broke WHS Old Boys’ recent dominance of local cricket. 

“Cricket is my biggest passion in life. We’ve had an amazing season at Wanderers and it will be very tough to say goodbye to them, but unfortunately this is my path, this is what I’ve been dreaming of achieving, and that is to coach in the IPL, so that’s what I’m working towards,” he said.