Ravens Bow Out to Seattle 46-32
by Peter MacDonald
posted April 26 2017
The Ravens took 18 guys to Seattle for a quarter final playoff on the artificial turf at Magnusson Field in Seattle and they needed all but one of them in a tough game against a physical opponent. The Ravens played very well to start the game, controlling much of the possession, while Seattle was being penalized frequently at the breakdown by referee Saro Turner who did an excellent job on the day. But it was Seattle who held sway in the first half scoring four tries to the Ravens’ one and taking a 22-13 lead into the break. A pushover try and three tries from good ball movement combined with some broken tackles accounted for the Seattle scoring. A Cully Quirke try from an Aaron McLelland chip plus two penalty goals were the Ravens’ scores.
The Ravens then stepped it up and were rewarded quickly for their efforts. Garret Garbe dove in from a ruck at the line and Quirke picked up an errant pass in the Seattle backs and went 60 metres for a go ahead try at 48 minutes, 27-22 Ravens. At this point the Seattle players and fans were seriously rattled. But Charlie Thorpe, a warrior all season long in the back row, then left the game with an injured knee joining Sean Ferguson who had gone off with a leg injury as well at the half. Seattle responded with two quick tries of their own firstly from a lineout near the Raven line and then directly from the ensuing kickoff taking a 34-27 lead.
The Ravens answered through McLelland as he took a gap and brought them within 2 points, 34-32 with less than 15 minutes to go. But a backbreaking try by Seattle at 74 minutes pretty much sealed the deal. Nelson, the Seattle #10, turned the ball inside to a hard running support player who shot through a gap and took the score to 39-32 with perhaps 5 minutes remaining. A final Seattle try featured their #14 running a hard line against the grain and high stepping through a few fatigued tacklers. End of story, end of season.
Seattle had gone to its bench with little if any drop off mid-way through the second half and got a shot of energy from the fresh legs helping them to pull away at the end. The Ravens lost two to injury and did not have the luxury of a deep bench. But the Ravens to a man put in a great effort and hung with Seattle till near the end despite giving up 8 tries.
It is no shame to lose in the BC Premier League playoffs to a strong club like Seattle. The standard is high for North America. Some very good clubs missed the playoffs while others couldn’t qualify for the spring Premier League. Good luck to Seattle going forward.
Coaches James Thompson and Callum Morrison did an excellent job all season long for the Ravens. New players Charlie Thorpe, Cully Quirke and Aaron McLelland were leading players from September to April. Jon Phelan, AJ King and Harjun Gill joined at various stages through the season and were great additions too. The young front rowers Paul Ahn, Curtis Delmonico and Dewald Kotze developed nicely as did their dynamic young counterpart in the backs Sean Hase. The veterans, Garret, Nick, Sean F and Kol were joined by a resurgent Ben Grant and they shared the leadership after losing Tom McKeen to injury in January.
The Rippers lost to CW in the Reserve playoffs 39-26 but came a long way this season. There is more depth and quality through the club. President Frank Fekete and all the volunteers deserve a pat on the back for running a good operation for another year. Adios amigos.
Ravens and Seattle Tie Round One – 31-31: Rippers Also Playoff Bound
by Peter MacDonald
posted April 19 2017
On a good day for rugby at Jericho Seattle put on a clinic of continuous possession for 25 of the first 30 minutes and were down 12-7 to the Ravens for their efforts. Seattle ran straight and hard, recycled the ball effectively and had variation in their attack in secondary phases. Much of the Seattle possession was courtesy of the Ravens not securing the ball both at the kickoff to start the game and at a subsequent kickoff following the Ravens’ first try. The result was a multitude of tackles by the usual suspects: Thorpe, Waggott, Henrikson , Grant, and Blevins, ie the backrow and centres, plus Cully Quirke on left wing who rocked a few good hits as well.
Sean Ferguson on right wing had good ball from McLelland and rounded his winger smoothly for the first try against the run of play. Then Seattle spread the Ravens from side to side and with a two man overlap sent the right winger in to tie it up. At 30 minutes McLelland then danced in around two defenders a la Nathan Hirayama against the Kiwis. And before the half ended the Ravens ran in a try from a front wind off a lineout that seemed to catch Seattle off guard, 19-7 Ravens.
Seattle, led by their #7 in particular, had their reward for all their possession, good execution and pressure with two quick tries to go ahead 21-19 by 55 minutes. A yellow card to Seattle for a dump tackle brought them to 14 men at 57 minutes and the Ravens capitalized. Jon Phelan stole a ball at a Seattle lineout and quick hands through the Raven backs on first phase sprung McLelland through a gap to take the score to 24-21 Ravens.
The last 10 minutes were eventful. First Ben Grant received an inside pass and was across the line easily but was called back for a forward pass which was questioned strongly after the game. Then Blevins was held up at the line. Seattle then scored a well-deserved multiphase try to take the lead again 28-24. The Ravens answered with a Blevins break and a Harjun Gill finish with little time left to take the score to 31-28 Ravens and a possible win. But Seattle had been strong in the sets all day and the Ravens were penalized at a set scrum at the end. The penalty kick sailed through at the whistle for a 31-31 final score, a result that keeps the Ravens in 5th spot and sends them down the I5 for the playoff rematch. It should be a good one. The Ravens scored four tries with 25 minutes of possession at most. More ball from restarts this week would be a good thing.
Congratulations to the Rippers are due as they moved into the playoffs as well with a 48-27 win over Seattle in the first division game. They will play CW away. Two weeks ago the two teams tied at Windsor Park so this game should be a barn burner. The Ravens are pleased to have two teams in the playoffs for the first time in many years. Dim Gotsopoulos is leading the pack and, with a logjam of quality backs in the club, Nolan McAllister, Kelepi Gucake and Jeff Vreys have been providing top class threats in the backs of late and giving flyhalf Grady Krohman lots of options. The club will be stretched thin with games in Victoria and Seattle so it will be all hands on deck this week.
Ravens Take Down CW with Last Touch 25-22
by Peter MacDonald
posted April 12 2017
Friday’s wind and backed up ferry traffic nearly derailed this game but, having obtained walk on ferry tickets at 6am at Tsawassen , the Ravens made the most of their opportunity to play. From the start it was clear that the Ravens were ready to go. They were the better team in the first 40 minutes although the half ended with only a one point advantage, 8-7 to the Ravens.
Early tackles by Nick Waggott, who was on fire all game long, Charlie Thorpe, Cully Quirke and Ben Grant set a tone. The Ravens were able to contain the opposing forwards around the rucks and Clayton Thornber on the crash off of CW lineouts. On offence the Ravens hogged possession, passing and catching smoothly and running phase after phase from most restarts. Set scrums went well also with occasional surges sending CW backwards. But for all their good play the Ravens held only a 3-0 lead through 37 minutes when they finally broke through for a try. On first phase from a lineout the Ravens moved the ball smartly left and sprung winger Sean Hase for a strong, straight run to the corner, 8-0 Ravens. But in no time CW answered when centre Doug Fraser chased down a chip from the #10, Robbie Povey, who then converted to bring the score to 8-7 Ravens at the half.
The payoff for the Ravens finally came in the second half, as two tries were run in one after the other at 50 minutes. First an excellent multiphase try was finished by Thorpe as Blevins with a left arm fend and a right hand shovel pass put him away. Then Curtis Delmonico turned over CW ball at the tackle and another good sequence of ball handling freed up flanker Kol Henrikson to round the last defender and touch down under the posts. As CW had slotted a penalty kick the score was now 22-10 to Ravens who looked like they might break the game wide open with open running rugby, the style the club’s founders sought to establish as the club’s raison d’etre back in 1974.
But CW gradually obtained more ball and when the Ravens failed to find touch after a hard spell of defending their line Povey, whose wingers were on high alert all day for angled kicks to retrieve on the gallop, fielded the clearance and promptly angled a high kick to the right corner which his winger got to just before the Raven defender, 22-15 Ravens at 68 minutes. With little time left CW then tied it up as Ngongo was given an overlap opportunity and he streaked to the left corner with Povey middling the conversion to the delight of the home fans, 22-22.
The Ravens launched their final spell from a lineout 30 metres from the CW line. Again they controlled possession through many phases. Nice passing by Harjun Gill and Ben Grant, clearing out by everyone, crashes from Blevins, Garbe and Ahn, and a key bit of cleaning up at the back of a ruck by Delmonico kept things going. Kelepi Gucake was eventually freed up on the left wing and tackled at the 10 metre line. From the ruck Blevins reversed the attack with a pass to Aaron McLelland and “free one” was yelled by a Raven, as CW were deemed to be offside by the referee (I presume). McLelland stole a glance at the posts, went zen like, and slotted a drop goal as stragglers jostled around the ruck only to find out a kick had been taken, the kick was good and the whistle was sounding for a 25-22 Raven win. McLelland strolled away calmly before being mobbed by his team mates.
The Ravens were feeling it for much of the day. Gill and Co. in the backs were making good passes and good decisions and sure handling meant retaining possession. Very few or no knock-ons meant there was little need for set scrummaging though that was not a problem on the day. The mobile Raven pack got around the field with the front row players, Garbe, Ahn and Delmonico as noticeable in the loose as the backrowers. CW had their strengths as well, powerful forwards, tactical kicking, goal kicking and speed in the backs but the final result was just I think most would agree.
Looks like a two week derby with Seattle is now on the books for the Ravens. Here’s to playing week two at Jericho.
Ravens Fall To Burnaby 29-10 at Jericho
by Peter MacDonald
posted April 5 2017
The Ravens played very well on a fine day at Jericho but fell to a Burnaby team whose set scrummaging and forward play was the difference. It was the Ravens who dominated from the whistle as they were fired up, tackling well and taking it to Burnaby inside the Burnaby half for the first 15 minutes. Charlie Thorpe laid out some big hits and Nick Blevins and Sean Hase were running well in the backs. But the Ravens came away with nothing for their early efforts after a penalty kick hit the post at 7 minutes.
Burnaby gradually came back into the game and two penalties against the Ravens in the sets indicated there might be continuing problems in that area. First blood went to Burnaby as a pushover try got them on the board at 25 minutes, 5-0 Burnaby. Burnaby’s #6 Albornoz was then yellow carded for a high tackle on Harjun Gill shortly after the try. The Ravens capitalized as Thorpe made a break from a ruck and two phases later an excellent team try was touched down by Aaron McLelland after the ball had moved smoothly through Garret Garbe and Jon Phelan wide right, 7-5 Ravens. But Burnaby answered promptly with a try from a lineout and maul to take a 10-7 lead. And unfortunately for the Ravens, after another Raven penalty kick hit a post, they were unable to finish the half down three points as Burnaby picked up a dropped ball from a kick and rambled to a physical try from some hard running near the Raven line. Sean Hase and others made saving tackles near the line but the half ended 17-7 Burnaby when they finally crashed in just before the halftime whistle.
At 50 minutes the Burnaby forwards added another try to take the score to 24-7 but the Ravens weren’t hanging their heads as they continued to play with passion. Dim Bonnis, Nick Waggott, Paul Ahn, Dewald Kotze and Garbe were tackling well and the Ravens were to get their chances as a stream of cards to Burnaby opened the door for the Ravens. A yellow card at 55 minutes for a dangerous head high tackle was followed by a red a few minutes later for a punch and then another yellow for not retreating and tackling at a Raven quick tap penalty near the Burnaby line. The Ravens had either a one or two man advantage for the last 25 minutes but were only able to put up three points from a penalty in front of the posts while Burnaby scored a final try.
What went wrong? Burnaby tied up a couple of mauls where the Raven player didn’t get to ground, the Ravens kicked away some possession, Burnaby caused all sorts of problems in the sets and the Ravens didn’t get the ball to their outside backs enough where the overlaps would have been. A lineout and maul option taken near the end from a penalty fizzled out as the Raven backs were likely looking at lots of space. Credit goes to Burnaby too for good defending and smart play.
The set scrum is ground zero in 15 aside rugby and if that is not going well it is an uphill battle for possession and territory. The Ravens were game but outmatched in the sets and were unable to tap their strengths elsewhere to even things up. While the late game tactics could have been better, the effort was excellent and against many teams it would have seen them through.