The Prairie Wolf Pack and The Rock have secured spots in the Canadian Rugby Championship final, after winning their second games of the competition.
The Wolf Pack hosted the Ontario Blues at Calgary Rugby Park Saturday in a closely contested match.
The Pack were missing a key kicking component in injured fly-half Stephen Woodward, but managed to nudge out the blues 15-13.
“It was close, very close,” Wolf Pack coach Mike Shelley said. “Woodward is the kicker. Without him, we don’t really have a specialist kicker. It’s an area we’ve looked at but we want the rugby players to play rugby. If we can score more tries than the other team, it doesn’t matter.”
The Rock, on the other hand, visited Klahanie Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, to face the B.C. Bears and managed a stellar second-half performance to come out on top 34-12.
“It’s a good day for us,” The Rock manager Rick Graham said. “It wasn’t perfect. It was a difficult game, we lost our form for a bit but we regained it and took over.”
While there are still two games remaining in the CRC regular competition, the Wolf Pack and The Rock now sit with two wins each and no losses, meaning they will compete for the CRC championship at the home of the competition leader on September 18.
The Bears and the Blues remain winless with only each other left to play, so will be fighting for a third place finish in the competition.
In The Wolf Pack’s home win over the Blues, the Pack scored two quick unconverted tries within the first 10 minutes of the game before the Blues shifted into gear.
Blues centre Ryan Tomlinson scored a try, with a conversion credited to fly-half Ander Monro to close the gap. Monro then kicked two penalties to take the Blues to a 13-10 lead at half time.
The score remained the same, with the visitors ahead until about 12 minutes left in the second half when the Pack’s Ian Shoults crossed for another unconverted try, taking the score to 15-13.
The Blues tried desperately to come back into the game, with Monro missing two drop goal attempts from 40 and 50 metres out.
With about three minutes to go, the Blues chipped the ball ahead and thought it had bounced out of bounds off a Pack defender, so took a quick lineout and scored from a five-metre run.
However, the assistant referee called the play back, saying the ball had never touched a Pack defender.
“I think we made some decisions down the stretch that hurt us,” Blues manager Mark Winokur said. “There were also some decisions called against us that hurt us, but that was just the way of the game.”
Despite being mathematically unable to make the championship game, Winokur said his team would bring their full game to the field when they host the B.C. Bears at the Burlington Centaurs club on September 4.
“Obviously we do not want to get the wooden spoon,” he said. “We want B.C. to be winless, so regardless of the point of the game, we want to win.”
Winokur also sang praise of the CRC in its inaugural year, hoping next year the competition could continue to expand.
“It’s a fantastic competition. It’s the best structure we’ve had in Canada for 20 years,” he said. “Unquestionably it needs to be bigger. The players love it and if it could be a six-game competition next year that would be great.”
Pack coach Shelley said although his team won, there was still some work to be done before they travel to St. John’s, Newfoundland, for their final regular season game against The Rock on September 4.
“Last week everything hit the hands. The level of accuracy was pretty mediocre this week. It’s a good wake-up call to get a win with a performance with errors like that.”
In the Bears’ home loss to The Rock, the Bears got off to a reasonably strong start in the first half, scoring four penalty kicks for 12 points.
However, the Rock were there to score too and managed a converted try to Ken Goodland plus a further three points on the sure boot of Dean Blanks to make the score B.C. 12-10 at the half.
The Rock then went on an absolute scoring tirade in the second half, notching 24 unanswered points to take the game well and truly out of the Bears’ grasp.
The points in the second half came through tries by Ben Trevorrow and Hearn, one converted by Blanks, who went on to slot a further four penalty kicks.
Unfortunately for the Bears, injury was added to the insult of defeat, with winger Kurtis Appledoorn suffering a broken leg in a tackle during the game.
Bears manager Connie McGinley said the squad was obviously rattled by the defeat, but looking forward to the chance of taking their frustrations out on the Ontario Blues in two weeks.
Prairie Wolf Pack 15 – Ontario Blues 13.
Wolf Pack tries - Mozac Samson, Kyle Gilmour, Ian Shoults.
Blues try - Ryan Tomlinson. Convert - Ander Monro. Penalty conversions - Monro (2).
Wolf Pack lineup
1. Scott Franklin
2. Emil Christensen
3. Hubert Buydens
4. Ian Huston
5. Luke Cudmore
6. Nanyak Dala
7. Kyle Gilmore
8. Jeremy Kyne
9. James Buchanan
10. Ryan Smith (C)
11. Evan Thomas
12. Dustin Macpherson
13. Nick Blevins
14. Mozak Samson
15. Ian Shoults
16. Russel Meidinger
17. Peter Houlihan
18. Graham Noren
19. Bruno Payette
20. Sam Val-Zehan
21. Jake Robinson
22. Brennan Marcoux
Ontario Blues lineup
1. Doug Wooldridge
2. Mike Pletch
3. Dan Pletch (C)
4. Brett Beukeboom
5. Stu Ault
6. John Moonlight
7. Keegan Selby
8. Nolan Ott
9. Jamie Mackenzie
10. Ander Monro
11. Ryan Macsween
12. Derek Daypuck
13. Ryan Tomlinson
14. Dan West
15. Steve Piatek
16. Creag Johnston
17. Alistair Clark
18. Andrew Wilson
19. Adam Schouten
20. Mark Macsween
21. Grant Schneider
22. Hugh Mcdonnell