Wednesday, January 15, 2014 - Submitted by Robert Murray
LANGFORD, BC – Rugby Canada is proud to announce the schedule for the 2014 Canadian Rugby Championship (CRC) season. The CRC is a part of Rugby Canada’s Strategic Development and Talent Identification Program and acts as a feeder into Canada’s Men’s Rugby Program.
The 2014 calendar consists of a total of 12 games across the country with each team – the British Columbia Bears, the Prairie Wolf Pack, the Ontario Blues and the Atlantic Rock – hosting three games and playing three on the road between August 9th and September 27th.
The CRC leads into the annual Americas Rugby Championship, which Canada’s Men’s ‘A’ Team takes on USA ‘A’, Argentina ‘A’ and Uruguay whereby players are selected for the annual November Tour Internationals.
2014 CANADIAN RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
From their team name, one might assume the Ontario Blues aren’t happy. Well they aren’t happy; they’re ecstatic.
Following the conclusion of the 2013 Canadian Rugby Championship in September that saw the Blues capture their third MacTier Cup in as many years, the schedule for the 2014 season was released on Wednesday with more rugby action planned for the months of August and September.
In previous years, all teams played just five games for a complete season.
In 2014, the schedule will have each team play a home-and-home series against each of their three opponents for a total of six games.
“The expanded schedule is great for us as we can get more guys more quality minutes and introduce more into the system,” said Blues head coach Chris Silverthorn.
The 2014 season kicks off Aug. 9, 2014 with the Prairie Wolf Pack hosting the BC Bears.
In 2013, the Wolf Pack took a step back in the standings, posting a 2-3 record after posting a 3-2 record and serving as the runner up in 2012. Their record in 2013 completed a cycle for the Wolf Pack who finished 2-3 in 2011.
There was some upside for the team though as two members of the Wolf Pack finished in the top three for scoring.
Gordon McRorie led all players in Canada with 48 points while Duncan McGuire came in third with 30 points, three shy of national team regular Connor Braid.
On the east coast, the Atlantic Rock will be out for revenge in 2014, looking to avenge a season-ending 26-23 loss on their home turf to the Ontario Blues.
The Rock will have a chance to return the favour to the Blues when the two teams clash in Ontario on Aug. 16.
After winning the MacTier Cup in 2010, the Rock have struggled, posting three consecutive losing seasons, including a league-worst 1-4 record last year.
From the Forrest brothers in Nova Scotia to the Parfrey’s in Newfoundland, the Atlantic Rock have developed a connection and chemistry of young players that not only runs through their line on the field but blood lines as well.
Following a stiff test against the Blues in their season opener, the Rock will head west to challenge the Bears and Wolf Pack in back-to-back games over a span of less than a week that should show if the team is for real in 2014.
The British Columbia Bears, runner-ups from 2013 CRC, stumbled in 2012, finishing last. Despite that, the Bears have now finished second in two of the past three years and are ready to give the Blues grief in 2014. The Bears had the unfortunate luck of being the team the Blues clinched the 2013 MacTier Cup against as the Blues downed the bears in Ontario by a 50-27 rout.
The aforementioned Braid was one of a trio of players leading the Bears attack in 2013, finishing second in league scoring.
Luke Campbell and Sean Ferguson also led the Bears offence, scoring three tries each throughout the two month long tournament.
In 2013, the Bears proved they were in the middle ground as they beat up on the Atlantic Rock and Wolf Pack but ended up losing both matches to the Blues.
Last but certainly not least; all eyes will be on the Ontario Blues in 2014. The three-time defending MacTier Cup champions finished last year’s CRC with a perfect 5-0 record, a first for any team in the tournament’s history.
The Blues were able to enjoy a strong presence on both sides of the ball. On defence, the Blues allowed a league-best 105 points The Blues also generated the most offence out of any team, putting up 167 points in just five games.
Highlights of the 2014 schedule feature some new twists and some traditions continued.
The Blues and Rock will once again end the CRC season by facing each other. For the past three years, the Blues have the Rock’s number in the season-ending game, beating the Rock on their home turf in the previous two matches.
The increased amount of games will also see teams play multiple games with a short turnaround.
Teams will play two sets of games three days apart. The schedule change will force all teams to rely on their depth players, allowing a number of Canadians from across the country to experience the highest level of rugby aside from international competition.
The Canadian Rugby Championship has long served as a resource to discover talent capable of competing on the international stage. Players from coast-to-coast have parlayed their time on the CRC circuit into successful international careers with Canada’s Senior Men’s national Sevens and Fifteens team.
Now household names in the Canadian rugby community, second row Jebb Sinclair and centre Ciaran Hearn both started their careers with the Atlantic Rock while other national team members such as flyhalf Liam Underwood and hooker Ray Barkwill came from the Ontario Blues. Countless other athletes have tossed aside their regional affiliations to wear the red and white together, helping Canada earn the respect of the rugby world on the international stage.
The CRC has also heavily influenced Canada’s roster for the America’s Rugby Championship. At the 2013 edition of the tournament in Langford, B.C. this past fall, all four regional teams were well represented with the roster featuring a majority of players who have never competed internationally.
2014 Canadian Rugby Championship Schedule Sat Aug. 9th: British Columbia Bears at Prairie Wolf Pack
Sat Aug. 16th: Atlantic Rock at Ontario Blues Prairie Wolf Pack at British Columbia Bears
Thu Sept. 4th: Ontario Blues at Prairie Wolf Pack Atlantic Rock at British Columbia Bears
Sun Sept. 7th: Ontario Blues at British Columbia Bears Atlantic Rock at Prairie Wolf Pack
Thu Sept. 18th: Prairie Wolf Pack at Atlantic Rock British Columbia Bears at Ontario Blues
Sun Sept. 21st: Prairie Wolf Pack at Ontario Blues British Columbia Bears at Atlantic Rock
Sat Sept. 27th: Ontario Blues at Atlantic Rock -30-