Ravens Double Vikes 22-11: Three Island Trips to Follow
by Peter MacDonald
With the fields in Vancouver closed for the weekend the Ravens and Vikes, keen to play, quickly arranged to move the game to Victoria on short notice after Doug Tate sent a photo of a pristine pitch on the sunny Friday afternoon. The pitch was fine but the conditions were rough as cold, wind and steady rain persisted throughout the game. The Ravens managed the conditions well though, put in a shift and ground out a win against a young Vikes team that had its chances as well.
After some early sparring Aaron McLelland got things going at 6 minutes when he joined the Raven backline wide right, rounded his man and, when the fullback and the cover defender began to converge, he cut hard left through the gap and cruised in for the try, 5-0 Ravens. Du Toit answered with a penalty kick before centre AJ King made a break for the Ravens and sent left winger Graham Turner in for the try, 10-3 Ravens after 25 minutes. The half ended 10-6 Ravens after another perfectly slotted penalty kick from DuToit. Both teams had played well with a minimum of knock-ons but the Ravens had controlled more of the possession and were running well executed sequences of forward drives and wide back play pushing the Vikes back gradually.
Early in the second half the Vike lineout let them down as an overthrown ball was scooped up by Nick Waggott who began a pick and go flurry that ended with #8 Karl Moran touching down with Jon Phelan driving him forward in support, 17-6 Ravens. But shortly after, the Vikes nearly closed the gap when centre Aiden McMullan, who was a danger all day long with his speed, then took a hole and looked like scoring a 70 metre try when he slowed up, apparently due to cramping, and was caught by Turner and hauled down short of the line. The Ravens took control of the game then at 58 minutes when from a strong set scrum Moran picked up and the ball went right to Jordan Sandover-Best, McLelland and then Karsten Leitner who drove hard into the right corner for the matter of fact bonus point try, 22-6.
At 75 minutes the Vikes banged in a try of their own when, after some pressure, the ball was swung wide to Spencer Cooper and he was unstoppable from a few metres out to ring up a 22-11 final score to the visitors. In the end though, the score perhaps did not reflect fully the nature of the game. The Ravens scored four tries to none till late in the game after both sides had substituted freely. The Ravens handled well, made the gain line regularly and ticked all the analytics boxes: lineouts won, set scrum push and wins, ball retention, tackles made/missed etc. Sandover-Best and Leitner back from Uruguay stepped in well, hooker Matty Suez threw in well at the lineouts and Jon Phelan was automatic in the lineouts despite the slippery ball. U Vic is young, particularly in the forwards, but they played very well also. DuToit and McMullen both had strong games and U Vic defended well for much of the 80 minutes. The Norseman won convincingly in the end against the Rippers so they are up to their usual high standards again.
It was great to get the game in but now the Raven schedule shows that they will have played one lone home game out of the first nine games through to the end of November with four in a row on the Island. Next week will be #2 on the Island tour against James Bay with CW and Nanaimo to follow for the Raven road warriors.
Ravens Come Alive Late To Earn Tough Win: Ravens 31 – Seattle 21
by Peter MacDonald
Oct 17 2017
On a cool, cloudy day, at a Jericho field held out of use till this game to allow new grass to grow in, the Ravens were hosts for the first time after a very successful four game “road trip” through their local rivals’ venues in September. And in the early going of this game with Seattle the tries just kept on coming. Within no time the Ravens were up 14-0 as Aaron McLelland chased down a kick and had it ping off his knee off the bounce and go forward 30 metres into in goal where naturally he arrived first to touch it down. Then Sean Ferguson intercepted a pass and took it in untouched for his third such try in five games. Seattle could have been forgiven for hanging their heads but that was not to be.
In fact Seattle promptly took over the game, took it to the Ravens physically and was on the brink of winning until a flurry of three tries in the last 10 minutes by the Ravens earned the home side a win. Seattle fielded a big, strong 15 and soon settled in to a direct, hard running game with plenty of possession earned by a pack that troubled the Ravens in the sets particularly. And in the backs the Seattle #10 kept the Ravens’ backs guessing with chip kicks, good passing and powerful runs of his own. For the first time all season the Ravens were a bit slow up in defence, were missing some tackles and were occasionally missing their reads out wide.
Seattle hit the scoreboard first at 25 minutes when they stole a put in against the head and their #8 picked up and powered straight in from 20 metres out to score under the posts, 14-7 Ravens. Five minutes later, after bossing the Ravens’ tacklers a bit more and pushing the Ravens back in the sets, Seattle tied it up with a series of straight hard runs from a set scrum to score under the posts again. The half ended at 14-14 with the Ravens under the cosh.
To make matters worse, just after the second half got underway fly half and goal kicker Adam McQueen went down with an ankle injury. McLelland moved to #10 and Sean Hase came in at fullback. And Seattle continued to play well, controlling possession and giving the Ravens problems. The Seattle fullback was a threat all day and the Ravens continued to oblige him regularly with kicks to him that he was happy to run back down their throats. At 50 minutes Seattle took the lead from a multiphase sequence which spread the Ravens’ defence thin allowing the Seattle left winger to scoot in the corner easily, 21-14 Seattle. Unless things changed the Ravens were going down.
But with 20 minutes to go the Ravens began to pick it up. After a day of unconvincing team tackling Sean Ferguson rocked a Seattle back with the first big hit of the game. Perhaps coincidentally then, or not, the Ravens began to play good rugby with ball in hand for the first time in the game. Soon Ferguson was held up in goal as he sliced through a few tacklers off right wing. Then, after Chris Taylor subbed in at prop and coach James Thompson came into the game in the centres, the Ravens camped in at the Seattle 5 metre line and eventually drove in the tying try after Nick Waggott had gained the hard yards angling in off a lineout, 21-21 at 70 minutes.
Two more tries followed as the Ravens kept the ball and pressured Seattle with two strong runs left by Sean Hase, one up the middle by AJ King from a set, and another through a gap on the right by McLelland. Quick ball right to Ferguson from these runs gave him three tries on the day in total and man of the match in the backs. Seattle looked like scoring near the end but good tackling by Waggott, Thompson and Ferguson held them at bay. Had they scored they would have earned two bonus points which would have been certainly deserved and would have reflected the game’s outcome more accurately.
Seattle will do well I would think if they can field this side regularly. Their loosehead prop was a handful as were many of their players. Seattle was gracious in defeat noting the many close games in recent years between the two sides. Karl Moran at #8 was strong again earning man of the match in the forwards again as he has in each of his three games since suiting up with the Ravens. With Harjun Gill, Jon Phelan and Liam Flanagan out with injury, not to mention longer term injury absences of Charlie Thorpe and Huw Grundy, the club is still faring well. The Rippers won 58-21 and are playing excellent rugby as well. Having shaken off the Thanksgiving turkey tryptophan induced somnolence without losing the game the Ravens look forward to hosting U Vic next week.