The Ontario Blues captured the Canadian Rugby Championship after a dogged win against the visiting Prairie Wolf Pack. There were joyous scenes in Burlington, Ontario as the referee blew for time and confirmed that the Blues are the third winners of the CRC - which began in 2009.
Points were a precious commodity and the home side fought hard to stick 15 on the board while the Pack came away empty-handed in more ways than one.
Blues went into the weekend clash having never beaten the Wolf Pack in three previous attempts. They came close earlier in the season but conceded a late try to lose in agonizing fashion. They were determined to avenge that defeat and had to defend solidly in the opening exchanges as Prairie pushed for an early score. Pack captain Kyle Gilmour and John Anderson were main figures behind the early drive.
Blues held firm and got the early break-through in their first attack of any meaning. Jordan Wilson Ross, who has been in phenomenal form this season, finished off a neat passing move to touch down for a try on 15 minutes.
Steve Piatek missed the conversion and there were no other clear-cut scoring chances for the remainder of the half. The Wolf Pack careened into challenges and pushed forward for a try of their own in the second half but the Blues defence was up to the task.
Atlantic Rock’s Dean Blanks was the last person to score a try against the Blues - they have not conceded a try for 158 minutes now. After coming through the opening storm, Ontario’s pack was in the ascendency and they penned the Pack into their own 22. Extended pressure led to the concession of a penalty that Piatek slotted over.
The killer blow came as Ontario piled forward and steadily went through the phases – testing the wings and making the hard yards up the middle. Scrum-half Kyle Armstrong spotted a sliver of light in the Pack defence and darted through for a crucial try. Piatek added the extras to make it 15-0 and so the scoreboard remained at the game’s end.
The Blues victory means they cannot be caught at the top of the CRC table and the formal presentation of the MacTier Cup will be made next week after they tackle The Rock.
“All credit to the Prairies, who always give us lots of trouble,” said Blues coach Rob Doyle. “We looked out of sorts in the first half and really never cracked it open. The second half was much better but this was certainly a very difficult win, as are all games at this level.”
Wolf Pack coach Col Jeffs lamented some missed scoring opportunities in the first half and some refereeing calls that did not go the way of his team. He added, “That’s rugby. The Blues played a good game today and deserve their success.”
The Blues will host The Rock next Saturday at Burlington. The Rock will certainly have lots to play for, as a bonus point win would leave them second to Ontario in the final standings. Other games on next weeks’ card include University of Buffalo women against Brock University women, University of Guelph men against McMaster, and Rock U20 taking on Niagara U20.
“It should be a great rugby day at Burlington next week,” said Blues manager Mark Winokur. “We are looking forward to a tough challenge from the Rock. Our guys know the job is not done yet and we have to finish the competition on a positive note.”
Blues - 15
Tries: Wilson Ross, Armstrong
Penalties: Piatek x1
Wolf Pack - 0