Saturday, October 10, 2009 - Submitted by Meghan Mutrie
It was not pretty, but the BC Bears were able to ride Nate Hirayama’s four penalties to edge the Ontario Blues by a score of 12 – 8 at MacDonald Park in Victoria, British Columbia.
The Blues’ defensive pressure kept the Bears from crossing the try line in the ARC semi-final, but four costly penalties within Hirayama’s range ultimately proved the difference.
Having smartly rode the underdog façade into Saturday’s match, the Ontario Blues made a convincing case to be the Canadian champions and looked to surprise the home side when flyhalf Steve Piatek split the uprights for a quick three.
BC had to rely on a number of shoe-string tackles to keep Ontario from turning their strong defence into more than the five points from centre Mike Scholz’s early try.
Coming into the semi-final, the Bears had scored the most points in the Canadian round-robin play and the Blues had given up the least, so Saturday’s low and narrow score was not entirely surprising.
The match took almost the full first 40 to take shape, as both teams resorted to put the ball in the air. When it moved to the ground, the heated rivalry materialized into a yellow card for each squad.
The Bears’ usual arsenal was neutralized and the match turned into a duel of the flyhalves, former teammates at the University of Victoria. Each was instrumental for their sides, trading perfectly weighted kicks for territory.
Hirayama, the overall points leader with 48, acknowledged Ontario’s early bid for the win and credits the close scoreline to their defence.
“Especially going into the second half, [the Blues] had us worried. I think we were on defence most of the game. Ontario did well to pressure us on offense and their counterattack was good; we didn’t have many options when it came to kicking.”
Though the win came at the hand of Hirayama’s foot, Piatek actually had a better strike rate at 87% entering this match, but the Bears’ flyhalf was able to make the Blues pay for their infractions on the 40m line.
Piatek was frustrated that the Blues, after holding the Bears try-less, gave up crucial penalties that now sees his squad playing for third place rather than first next week at the ARC Final.
“We did everything well, including giving up penalties. We’ll just have to take this into next week and prove we should’ve won today. It’s always fun to beat up on the Americans.”
Formerly awarded to the winner of the Canadian Super League, the MacTier Cup was presented to the BC Bears on Saturday for earning the Canadian title.
The ARC Final took shape as the international component of the competition began today with a semi-final in Glendale, Colorado between the Argentina Jaguars and the USA Select XV.
Argentina took the match easily, beating their American counterparts 57 - 10.
Fletcher’s Fields in Markham, Ontario will host the two final ARC matches on October 17. In the Bronze Final, the Ontario Blues will square off against the USA Select XV at 1pm.
In the inaugural ARC Championship Final, the BC Bears, as the Canadian representatives and undefeated to date, take on the Argentina Jaguars at 3.30pm.
Ontario Blues Try: Mike Scholtz Penalty: Steve Piatek