Saturday, August 20, 2011 - Submitted by Patrick McCarry in Vancouver, BC
Christian Wolff returned to the Prairie Wolf Pack side and inspired them to a 35-23 win against British Columbia. The fly-half sat out last week’s defeat against BC in Kelowna and his kicking and directional skills were sorely missed. He scored 15 points with the boot at Calgary Rugby Park and was at the centre of most of the Pack’s best play. An impressive performance by Josh Schlebach and Kyle Gilmore, despite the captain’s second half yellow-card, saw the home team into the winner’s circle.
BC came into the tie as Canadian Rugby Championship league leaders and played the first-half with a considerable breeze at their back. All thoughts of making the weather advantage count were knocked on their head after just 30 seconds when BC spilled the looping kick-off. The ball broke to the Wolf Pack attackers who chipped into the corner. Adam Bontus charged over from his centre position and snaffled the chance to get the home crowd cheering. Wolff’s well struck conversion kept them in fine voice.
BC almost had a try of their own after 10 minutes when Jo Dolesau set up Conor Braid out wide but the fly-half was robbed of possession less than a yard from the line. Play switched to the BC ’22 soon after and Dolesau was this time guilty of giving away a penalty that Wolff slotted home to make it 10-0. The mid-stages of the half were light on scoring but the supporters were kept entertained by Schlebach’s towering jumps in the line-out and a crunching tackle on Gilmore by BC’s Bryan Tyrer.
Prairie were given a further boost when Chris Chalmers from BC was yellow-carded for a ruck infringement and pushed the visitors backwards. From a solid scrum, followed by a ruck, James Buchanan and fly-half fed Wolff on an attacking line and he, in turn, set up Ian Shoults to score under the posts. Braid registered his side’s first points of the day with a penalty in the 25th minute and he added another five minutes later but not before Wolff had the crowd on their feet with a 50 metre break from defence. The clock was ticking towards the halfway mark but BC were not finished as an incisive break down the right wing led to a steaming Dustin Brewka being set up to charge under the posts from 15 metres out. Braid’s conversion made it 17-13 at the half.
Wolf Pack head coach Col Jeffs would have been hoping for a similarly quick start to the second half and he was not to be disappointed as his players piled forward. Under pressure, Braid spilled the ball on his own line and the resulting scrum and release led to Tyler Hawes bulldozing over for a try. Wolff slotted again to make it 24-13. Both sides were playing each other for the second time in a week and there were a lot of choice words, and tackles, on display in the second half. Prairie were guilty of infringements in the rucks and mauls and Gilmore was sent to the sin-bin for a nasty shoulder charge.
A further indiscretion, this time by Mozac Samson, led to the deficit being cut by a Braid penalty but the home team’s advantage was restored three minutes later when Wolff landed a penalty. If, at 27-16, the home side thought they were within touching distance of a win they were mistaken as Dustin Luther became the next Pack member to incur the referee’s wrath and take a 10 minute sin-bin on the sidelines. BC made the two-man advantage count in the 65th minute as they scored a fine push-over try in the left corner. Shawn Mercier emerged from the pile of bodies as the try-scorer and Braid converted for a score of 27-23.
The Wolf Pack were not going to be denied a vital win, however, as they pushed forwards and forced mistakes and penalties from their opponents. Wolff scored one penalty from 40 metres out but hit the post from closer in. A late BC comeback was snuffed out and, with six minutes remaining, Prairie opted to go for a fourth try rather than take a simple penalty. The decision paid off as Ian Huston crashed over from close in to make it 35-23. Wolff was unsuccessful again but the damage was done and the referee’s whistle meant that the CRC has been thrown wide open again.
BC coach Kris de Scossa lamented the pre-game loss of his captain Eric Wilson but added that Cody Rockson stepped in to the fly-half position to play a solid game. He said, “The Wolf Pack had their game together tonight and they had a great start. They gave our young players the sort of test that we've been expecting.”
British Columbia – 23 Tries: Sabic, Mercier Conversions: Braid (x2) Pens: Braid (x3)
British Columbia 1. Anthony Luca, 2. Edvin Sabic, 3. John Mackenzie, 4. Liam Chisholm, 5. Nathan Mantle, 6. Josh Clarke, 7.Chris Chalmers, 8. Aaron Goddard 9. Eric Wilson (captain), 10. Bryan Tyrer, 11.Conrad Rybkowski, 12. Michael Fuailefau, 13. Josefa Dolesau, 14. Shawn Mercier, 15. Connor Braid Reserves: 16. Andrew Lackner, 17. Scott MacKay, 18. Mike Georgas, 19. Taylor Stogryn, 20. Colin Mckenzie, 21. Cody Rockson, 22. Johnathan Morris
Prairie Wolf Pack 1. Chad Packard, 2. Dustin Brewka, 3. Ryan Ackerman, 4. Ian Huston, 5. Josh Schlebach, 6. John Anderson, 7. Kyle Gilmore (captain), 8. Clayton Panga 9. James Buchanan, 10. Christian Wolff, 11. Duncan Maguire, 12. Adam Bontus, 13. Mozac Samson, 14. Ian Shoults, 15. Brennan Marcoux
Reserves: 16. Dustin Luther, 17. Emil Christensen, 18. Tyler Hawes, 19. Spencer Massiah, 20. Bruno Payette, 21. Jake Robinson, 22. Evan Thomas