As it was in the first round of the Canadian Rugby Championship, the home team prevailed Saturday with the Prairie Wolf Pack claiming a 41-6 win over the B.C. Bears.
The Pack hosted the Bears at Calgary Rugby Park and survived a couple of early penalty kicks from the Bears to rack up six tries in an impressive display of total rugby.
Leading the charge of the Wolf Pack was blindside flanker Nanyak Dala who gave his team a huge scoring boost in the second half, notching two tries in three minutes.
While Coach Mike Shelley and his troops had just a four-day training camp to truly prepare, the Wolf Pack brought fierce defence and an expansive offence to Calgary Rugby Park.
Shelley said after the game that he had expected a much closer game, considering the short camp for his team.
"It’s really pleasing to see that a lot of work with the players in a little amount of time paid dividends,” Shelley said. “I think the result shocked all of us, but I knew if we played the structure we put together, we’d play well.”
While the Wolf Pack benefitted heavily from the whole team working in cohesion, their back row were especially successful in keeping the Bears at bay.
The game was close to begin with, as each team tested the waters before the Bears notched two penalty conversions through fly-half Connor Braid to take a 6-0 lead.
The Pack's Stephen Woodward replied with a penalty of his own about 26 minutes into the first half to close the gap by three.
The Wolf Pack extended their lead seven minutes later when a successful lineout led to a driving maul downfield before a cross-field kick from Woodward landed the ball in the hands of right winger Dustin MacPherson who dove over for a try.
Another successful lineout-maul combination set up the Pack’s next try three minutes before the close of the half, when a ball was popped inside as the maul broke up and flanker Kyle Gilmore crossed the line.
The Wolf Pack led 13-6 at halftime on the back of a penalty and two unconverted tries, but their scoring tirade was far from over.
Scott Franklin started the scoring for the home team in the second half and Dala took advantage of some poor tackling to score a double.
Woodward was good for two conversions before leaving the field due to injury and Evan Thomas converted Dala’s second.
The Bears fought hard in the second half despite the overwhelming deficit, but much of their good intentions fell to waste at the hands of the Wolf Pack’s defence.
The Pack came hard out of the defensive line and the Bears were forced to cope with little time to react as Pack centres Ryan Smith and Nick Blevins made some scything tackles to break the plays, much to the delight of Coach Shelley.
“Cutting down the space and time the opposition have is part of the game at this level,” Shelley said. “The effort on behalf of the players was why it paid off. It was outstanding.”
Winger Mozac Samson capped the scoring for the home team with a try 21 minutes into the second half.
The Bears biggest series of momentum came late in the game as they staged phase after phase close to the Pack’s try line.
The Bears looked close to scoring on two occasions, but a break by winger Shawn Mercier saw him held up over the line and an offload from Braid was knocked on by Taylor Dalziel over the line.
Bears coach Mike James had little to say following the disappointing result, but hoped his team would be able to regain composure before their next clash.
“Collectively, I don’t think we were at the level we needed to be to compete in this competition,” James said. “In the second half, they scored the one try and then smelt blood and jumped on the wounded bear."
The Canadian Rugby Championship resumes next weekend with a double header, when the Wolf Pack host the Ontario Blues at Calgary Rugby Park and the Bears host the Rock at Klahanie Park.
Prairie Wolf Pack 41 – B.C. Bears 6.
Wolf Pack tries – Dustin Macpherson, Kyle Gilmore, Scott Franklin, Nanyak Dala (2) and Mozac Samson.
Conversions – Stephen Woodward (2) and Evan Thomas (2).
Penalty conversions – Woodward (1).
Bears penalty conversions – Connor Braid (2).
Wolf Pack lineup
1. Tom Dolezel
2. Emil Christensen
3. Hubert Buydens
4. Ian Huston
5. Luke Cudmore
6. Nanyak Dala
7. Kyle Gilmour
8. Jeremy Kyne
9. James Buchanan
10. Stephen Woodward
11. Dustin MacPherson
12. Ryan Smith
13. Nick Blevins
14. Mozac Samson
15. Ian Shoults
16. Russel Meidinger
17. Peter Houlihan
17. Scott Franklin
18. Bruno Payette
19. Sam Val Zehan
21. Evan Thomas
22. Brennan Marcoux
1. Tyler Hawes
2. Pat Riordan (C)
3. Jason Marshall
4. Cam Pierce
5. Brian Erichsen
6. Ben Johnson
7. Tye de Goede
8. Glen McKinnon
9. Sean White
10. Connor Braid
11. Shawn Mercier
12. Taylor Dalziel
13. Hugo Belanger
14. Sean Duke
15. Keaton Styles
16. Ryan Hamilton
17. Dave Cameron
18. Scott Mackay
19. Mitch Gudgeon
20. Callum Morrison
21. Eric Wilson
22. Brady Carpenter