Monday, September 8, 2014 - Submitted by Jeff Robinson - Wolf Pack Communications
The Wolf Pack defended their home turf and reignited their quest for their first Canadian Rugby Championship title today. The Pack were clinical on attack, their support runners ran their lines and linked up well. In addition, they won the breakdown battle, as well as, held more than their own at the scrums and line outs, as well, they were exceptional at the restarts. It was a very clinical display of rugby from the Pack today, with only a yellow card for a high tackle that would diminish their accomplishments.
From the opening kick off it was evident that this Wolf Pack side was one not to be messed with. Their intensity was at a high and they tackled hard and hit the rucks well. From the first breakdown, they were able to recycle the ball well and keep possession, something that they struggled to do against the Blues on Thursday. After a strong run, from Captain Kyle Gilmour, and through some great linking play by James Smith (a player who has played well for the Pack all season), McRorie was able to score uncontested for the first of his three tries of the match. McRorie would then miss the conversion, but the Pack was up 5-0 early in the match.
It was easy to see that the intensity that was missing from the match against the Blues was there against the Rock. The battle for the breakdown was easily won by the Pack and for the most part they were always on the front foot. Their pack was always able to secure solid possession for their backs which then enabled them to attack the line at speed. The Pack’s link play, something that again was missing against the Blues, was also on display and there was excellent continuity between the pack and backs.
Whenever a Wolf Pack player went into contact there was always a support runner to either take the pass or to go over the ball to ensure quick ball. The Wolf Pack’s work at the breakdown was excellent as the Rock were almost never able to successfully contest for the ball on the ground. As well, due to their ability to ensure quick ball, the Rock’s defense rarely had time to either adjust or to get back in line to regroup and stop the Pack’s next phase attack ball.
The Pack’s second try, ironically, came through a lucky bounce, something they never seemed to have against the Blues. After a great break from Jake Robinson, he threw a less then steller pass to McRorie, the Rock were able to intercept the ball, but then they subsequently knocked it on. This would allow McRorie, in perfect position, to simply pick up the ball and run it in for his second try of the game, which was less than ten minutes old. This time though, he would convert his own try.
After the ten minute mark the Rock would show that they were not just going to be bystanders for this match and upped their intensity, however they were still only playing second fiddle to the Pack.
Whenever their intensity rose, the Pack were able to match it through aggressive tackling or counter rucking. On more than one occasion the Wolf Pack forward’s were able to counter ruck, and disrupt quick ball for the Rock, or turn it over outright.
This was also a match where the bounces never went the Rock’s way, as was best shown in the 19th minute. The Wolf Pack were able to kick over the Rock line and the Rock’s scrum half, Tony Pomeroy, who was in great defensive position, let the ball bounce. However it was a Wolf Pack bounce and Jake Robinson was able to recollect the ball and then passed it over to Graham Turner who would score an easy try, making it seventeen to nil for the Pack.
Shortly after, the Pack were almost through for another try, for McRorie, but after a great break by MacPherson, a controversial referee call for a knock on ended the attack. It did look like McRorie let the ball hit his arm, but instead let it bounce to the ground and then did a grubber kick, but the referee had already ruled it a knock on.
The second half would continue to be way traffic for the Wolf Pack, even after the substitutes came on to the pitch, they did not slow down in their attack. The Rock seemed to have no answer to either the Wolf Pack’s ability to provide quick ball at the rucks, or their excellent support running. Clayton Panga, Matt Harrison and Graham Turner were all able to cross the try line to score majors for the Pack in this half.
The only real blemish for the Wolf Pack was a, admittedly warranted, yellow card to James Smith for a high tackle in the first half. The Wolf Pack had committed a few high tackles earlier in the match, and were previously warned by the referee, consequently after a high tackle by Smith, he saw yellow.
However, the Rock would be unable to make the Pack pay for this transgression.
At the restarts, Evan Olmstead, continuing his excellent season with the Pack, was excellent at re-gathering them and allowing the Pack to start their phase attack on the front foot. When the Pack attacked, their run support was excellent, when the won a penalty, their resulting line outs went well.
The Pack also continued their strong play at the scrum and did not lose one in the entire match.
Everything seemed to go the Pack’s way today. On the occasion, when the Pack were on the defensive, the first up tackling was generally solid. Only the Rock winger, McNiholas, would be able to cross the Pack’s line, late in the first half, to score in the corner.
After such a decisive victory, the Wolf Pack are again in the driver’s seat to win their first championship title. However, a daunting away trip awaits them, two very tough away games where they will most likely need to secure bonus point victories to keep their championship hopes alive. The game against the Rock in St. John’s will be a tricky encounter, while beating the Blues at home is always a tough ask.
Regardless, this was a great victory to send the Pack off to on their eastern road trip.