A Long Hard Road: UBC 29 – JBAA 15
by Phil Meyer
posted April 24 2017
After a Barnard Cup win in fall play on Vancouver Island, the BCRU Premier season has proved a long hard challenge for the Navy Blue of James Bay Athletic Association. Difficulties while we work to expand the youth base for rugby here in Victoria – the usual challenges to a club worn thin by injury – channeling newly arrived young ruggers to CW by the RC folks at Langford – and their exporting of a key front rower to play Down Under just as the BCRU playoffs emerge. When challenged, RC comes up with a series of Alt-Fact based “explanations” that would make Donald Trump blush – or baldly states, the BCRU doesn’t provide good enough competition to develop potential Canada players – and, in self-fulfilling prophecy, ships them away to overseas.
So, faced with the portent of huddling beneath my umbrella Saturday under grey Point Grey skies, I could think of lots of reasons for not getting on the ferry.
But get on the ferry I did. I did it out of respect for UBC rugby. Sixty years ago when I was in the hunt, UBC was THE TEAM. Our Crimson Tide played them at a time when any player who was any good played for the Tide. No less would do! And, for the past two seasons, they have been champions again – the team to beat in BCRU play – until some other team does – or they outsmart themselves (see footnote later in this rant).
I also did it out of respect for the Men in Navy Blue. Rounsfell Cup champions twenty-five times – the most by far of any BC team. And, in the present day, Phil Mack, Sean White, Noah Barker, Graham Harriman, Jimmy de Goede, Blake van Heyningen – and other James Bay stalwarts – who enter each game, no matter what the circumstances, carrying forward JBAA’s 130 year tradition – “We expect to win”.
And so I find myself on the dampish turf – droplets from above cannonading off my JBAA umbrella. By mid-first half – and on into Half Two – I am glad I came!
The UBC’s play a fast clean game – and their backs threaten to score throughout. But the Bays, lead by fierce tackling by Phil Mack – determined play by their Tight Five - and offensive powering by Captain Graham Harriman and Sean White – more than hold their own.
No score from either side through the first 30 minutes – then a UBC penalty goal by Adam McQueen. But four minutes from Half, the Bays exert pressure – and Jack Mealey steps way up to plunge over in the left corner. JBAA 5 – UBC 3, as the half comes to end.
In Half Two, the Bays are now headed down wind and (it appears to me) down slope. At forty-four minutes, Elliot Mitrou lofts a 55 meter penalty attempt through the UBC uprights! JBAA now 8 – UBC still 3. The Birds have upped their attacking game – but Bays still hold them out – counterattacking when they can.
Then, 11 minutes past the Half, a decision by officials – described by a Burnaby rugby scout in attendance as having IMMENSE impact on the game. Bays’ captain Harriman coming to a tackle – the ball springs lose – he turns to follow – colliding with the UBC player. After some discussion, a yellow card is issued – JBAA plays a man short for the next 10 minutes. You cannot expect to fair well against the attacking Birds under such circumstances – and UBC uses overlap to pour in two (converted) trys during Harriman’s enforced rest. The game no longer hangs in balance.
There will be a great pouring over video of this impactful event. Undoubtedly, the officials will feel they “got it right”. Others, like myself, standing close beside along the sideline, viewed the carding call as “harsh”. But nothing, in result, will change. As Don Meredith said: “If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were fruits and nuts, it would be Christmas”.
Some 40 years ago, when I was blowing whistle in Mainland rugby, we were taught that the last thing we wanted to do was affect the outcome of the game – and that we should always consider “context” – and look for an alternative choice of action. Today, rugby rules undeniably lead to “safer” play. But this is the second time we have experienced “death by whistle” in this short spring season – and I have an unhappy sense that there is now more attention being paid to rulebook “line by line” phrasing – and less to “context” and to common justice in the game.
This takes nothing away from the Thunderbirds. As noted, they play clean, attractive rugby. They scored twice more (one converted) to get to 29. On the day, UBC scorers were led by Sean Duke with two trys†, Manar Kulkhan, and (I think) Theo Sauder with one. Adam McQueen kicked three converts and a penalty goal.
The Bays fight on – and Luke Campbell scores their second try, converted by Mitrou, near the end. Final score: UBC 29 – JBAA 15; the 14 point difference exactly equal to the Birds’ scoring run during the Bays’ yellow period.
Sailing home, we feel good about our team – and continue our discussion about what to do concerning challenges we face going forward.
† Sean’s appearance in the game was a bit of a surprise – and statisticians are busy this morning trying to find any game sheet or roster records that confirm he was OK for playoff play.
Seattle into 4th – Bays Stand 5th: Weekend Match Report
posted April 2 2017
by Phil Meyer
Saturday saw the last regular season games at MacDonald Park this year. At end of play, Seattle Prems beat JBAA 36 to 32, and jump into the 4th spot in the BCRU Premier playoff picture. Bays salvaged 2 bonus points from the game, and presently stand 5th on a tie-breaker over Caps. JBAA prevailed in the Ones game 19 to 15. As a result, Saracens Ones have 15 standings points, tied with Caps, in Premier Reserve League play – JBAA Ones have 14, pressed up against the BCRU six team playoff window – but not yet in.
Premier play at MacDonald matched two teams depleted by departees to foreign rugby wars – the injured – and perhaps in Saracens’ case, fear of Trumpian xenophobics on their return to the border. The Blue Crush had an edge in forwards play – but Saracen backs, particularly out wide, played hard and fast – and JBAA defenders bent under their onslaught.
At 14 minutes, winger Dion Crowder zigs then zags for 50 meters, spews Navy Blue tacklers in his wake, scores the Emerald Blue’s first try. Andrew Nelson converts. Seattle 7 – JBAA 0.
Just past mid-half, the Blue Crush answers back – Navy man Rhys Davies finishing a maul to goal to score. Ed Adams adds a penalty goal four minutes on. JBAA 8 – Seattle 7. Bays playing up wind and up slope – things looking hopeful.
Saracens strike back with a 2nd try two minutes on – by outside center Sequoia Burke-Combs. Nelson again converts. Five minutes from the half, an Emerald penalty goal by Nelson. Then, at the end, a pretty play – Sean White to Neil Meechan to Luke Campbell – results in a James Bay score. At the half: Seattle 17 – JBAA 13. The difference: Saracens have touched their two trys down near the posts and made the converts. Bays have touched down at the outer edges of the field – converted neither. This foreshadows the end point in the game.
One minute into Stanza Two, the Bays jump ahead - Kyle Lagasca finishing a run and pass from scrum half Aaron Evison. Eddy Adams converts. JBAA now 20 – Seattle now 17.
For the next 20 minutes, Saracens exert up-slope pressure. Nick McKenna finishes off the Emeralds’ only forwards score at 49 minutes. Psalm Wooching goes over from the wing 10 minutes further on – Nelson converting. A second try from Crowder – again converted by Nelson. With 15 minutes left. Seattle 36 – James Bay 20. Not looking good for the Bays.
But James Bay isn’t done. Blue Crush still pressuring. Six minutes left – and Cole Keith powers over for the score. Adams again converts. Seattle 36 – James Bay 27. And with time nigh gone, the Bays spin ball out to the right – and Kyle Lagasca powers in for his second. At the end, Saracens 36 – JBAA 32. The Bays seemed to need a bit more time. Unfortunately, rugby halves are 40 minutes – not 45.
Pre-game, it was said that this joust would be pivotal in playoff fortunes for both teams. And so it was. Saracens jumped from seventh to fourth in Premier standings – their chances with two games left against Rowers and Ravens, looking good. The Bays presently stand fifth – and will finish their challenging season versus UBC on Point Grey fields.
Saracen Ones scored three first half trys – blanked Bays’ Ones, who for a time seemed to have brought back their “distracted chicken” playing strategies – and ended up with a 15 to zip halftime lead.
Bays’ Ones have, however, bettered as the season has progressed – and in Half Two, stepped back up to a better rugby brand. At 56 minutes, front rower Jason Lines powered in to score. Max Sydenham converted. Then Navy Blue ball was spun right to Cole Braid who raced into the Seattle in-goal - the Bays back within sniffing distance at 12 – 15.
Three minutes from the end, more Blue Crush power – and Eric Thompson scores – Sydenham converts. At the end: JBAA Ones 19 – Saracen Ones 15 – the winning margin eerily similar to the game that was to follow – two successful converts.