Ravens Fall To Caps by One – 25-24: Match Report by Peter MacDonald
posted Nov 14 2016
by Peter MacDonald
This game was much anticipated by the rugby community in Vancouver. On a make-up game weekend with no other matches on, a good crowd was expected and it showed up. Caps fans were out in force, the Lomas were there and I’m sure some Rowers were too as their fate might also be determined by this game. A Caps loss without a bonus point risked demotion for them and a Caps win would put one of the Lomas and Rowers out of the spring Premier League. It was a match fixer’s dream... but as this is BC rugby it would be decided fairly on the pitch.
Motivation on the Caps part was palpable. All the marbles were on the table for the North Shore club that features four men’s sides and long and successful history at the top level in BC men’s rugby. Glen McKinnon was making his first start of the season and the Caps squad looked intent on playing its best rugby. The Ravens had a little motivation of their own as a bonus point win would put them in the fall final against Burnaby.
After centre Huw Grundy put the Ravens up 5-0 early with a try the Caps answered with an intercept try to even things up at 5-5. As the half progressed the Caps started to get the upper hand, maintaining possession for long stretches and forcing the Ravens to tackle their big men relentlessly. The next opportunity to score though fell to the Ravens who were awarded a penalty kick 25 metres out in front of the posts at 18 minutes. Presumably looking to get four tries, the Ravens passed on the makeable penalty kick and punted to touch for the lineout near the Caps’ line. A knock on followed and the scoring threat was over. Second guessing is easy and I’m not questioning the tactics but a made kick would have led to a different outcome.
At 27 minutes the Caps were rewarded for their commitment with a try in the left corner after a spell of pressure. A nice conversion by Sam Franklin made it 12-5 Caps. A Ravens’ offside penalty followed and it was slotted, 15-5. Sean Ferguson brought the Ravens back with a short chip and chase try before the Caps closed out the half with a penalty kick earned through more possession and hard forward play 18-10.
The Ravens now had the slight wind and the slope in their favour for the second half and with a little more possession there would be reason for optimism. Although the possession didn’t initially improve for the Ravens, their fortunes did. Their Kiwi-Dubai talisman Aaron McLelland scorched the Caps defence at 50 and 63 minutes with his elusive speedy running pinning the Ravens to a 24-18 lead with the bonus point in hand. McLelland’s second try was the product of excellent build up by the Ravens and for the first time in the game the Ravens now, as the clock ticked into the last 10 minutes, were dominating possession and settling into the Caps 22 metre area. Momentarily the Caps looked a beaten squad and the air had gone out of their sideline supporters I’m sure but the Caps managed to turn over Raven ball once when in danger and were holding for the time being.
A Ravens’ penalty at a ruck then allowed the Caps to clear to touch for a lineout at midfield. From there the Caps had one last go and they summoned everything they had to score a needed try from desperate play with two minutes to go, 24-23 Ravens. The conversion would be taken from right of the posts and the right footed Franklin would have to slot it. Not a pleasant situation that his club had put him in after a mediocre season by their standards. Negative thoughts were apparently banished as Frankilin middled the kick to the shouts of the Caps’ members strung out along the west sideline, 25-24 Caps.
From the kickoff the Caps went into pick and go, shut it down mode but as time was winding down they lost the ball in contact and the Ravens countered quickly through the backs with the Cap defenders outnumbered in the wide area. A try may have been on for the Ravens but a knock on in the backs ended that thought and soon the final whistle blew much to the happiness of the Caps players and to the bewilderment of the Lomas and Rowers in attendance.
The Ravens played their hearts out defending and should be proud of their accomplishments this fall. Garret Garbe, Nick Waggott and Thomas McKeen led a much improved pack. The additions of Jon Phelan and Trevor Helgason at lock have added pieces of the puzzle that have been missing in recent years. The backs again scored all the tries and are dangerous as a group every time they touch the ball. Nice job by James Thompson and his coaching staff.
Ravens Clinical in Win Over Rowers 33-7
by Peter MacDonald
posted Nov 7 2016
As the mists lingering over the North Shore rose and the rains abated the Rowers and Ravens prems took to the Brockton Oval field with the same goal: for the Rowers a victory to climb out of the relegation zone and for the Ravens a bonus point win to stay in the chase for a fall championship. It was the Rowers who stated their case most strongly off the bat. For the first 15 minutes the Rowers were largely in the Ravens’ half and they had most of the ball. Repeated forays near the Ravens’ line were repelled. Lineouts, driving mauls and straight crashes tested the Raven defence but it was up to the task led by pack hunting flankers Waggott and Thorpe.
Given a chance with the ball at midfield the Ravens then struck against the early run of play. #10 Aaron McLelland took a gap and shifted into high gear and in a blink was diving into the left corner in-goal , 5-0, like that. Moments later Tom McKeen at #8 picked and went right, the ball then moved left from a ruck and Huw Grundy in the centres took a hard line slight right and cut through tacklers to the posts, 12-0. Then at 25 minutes fullback Sean Ferguson chipped and chased, recovered the ball and sent his support man Cully Quirke in for a third try, 19-0, that added to the quiet on the west sideline. Despite a 50/50 battle overall the Ravens now had a comfortable lead to take into the half as they had seized the few chances on offer.
Two second half Raven tries sealed the game. Scrum half AJ King burst through from the edge of a ruck, made a good straight run for the posts and laid it off to a cheating fullback in Ferguson for a 26-0 score and a needed bonus point. At 65 minutes then McLelland angled a high ball to his left winger Nolan McAllister who stayed onside and then camped under the ball before sending it inside to McKeen and two young front rowers Marco Caza and Dewald Kotze. From a ruck McLelland then hit a cutting Quirke who took it in for his second tally, 33-0.
The Rowers stayed on task and fullback Kevin Gurniak gave the Ravens a bit of their own medicine when he carved them up with a long weaving run for a try at 70 minutes 33-7. The Rower scrum half followed with his own break from a ruck shortly after that saw him only just be deprived of a try in the right corner. But that was it and the Ravens won the day.
The score line may have flattered the Ravens a bit but their tackling was solid all day long. The late runs by the Rowers were the only times all game that the gain line was seriously breached. And not a few Raven tackles led to Rower knock-ons which ended threatening situations. It was old school rugby where forwards were forwards and the backs scored the tries. The front row of Kotze, Caza and Curtis Delmonico are all under 21 but old school too, no pampering needed. Caza, fom Montreal, had a great debut at tight head.
Coach James Thompson may not have liked what he saw last week so he shuffled the deck in the backs. Last week’s #9 Ferguson moved to full back, the #13 King moved to scrum half and the #15 McLelland moved to fly half. Worked out well.
Despite the outcome today the Rowers will surely be pulling for the Ravens to win against the Caps next week to keep the Rowers in the hunt. Good luck to the Rowers.