Ravens Have to Work Hard in 29-10 win over Westshore
by Peter MacDonald
Ravens and Westshore (Velox) have not met in well over a decade so it was great to host this game and renew acquaintances on a foggy December day at Jericho. The Ravens were coming off two losses and were looking to right the ship so they were happy to get the bonus point win but it didn’t come easily to say the least.
The Ravens struck early with a try in the left corner after stretching the Westshore defence and creating an overlap. But any thoughts of one way traffic were quickly banished when powerful left winger Sitiveni Nacoko of Westshore nearly answered minutes later as he rounded his man with a burst and touched down only to have the assistant referee slowly and calmly raise his flag indicating Nacoko had stepped in touch likely ever so little. Westshore kept up the pressure from there crashing their big locks off rucks and forcing good tackles out of the Ravens particularly by Ben Grant, Karl Moran and Sean Ferguson who took down Nacoko one on one with little cover behind him. The visitors were rewarded for their efforts with a penalty kick for a Raven offside and at 25 minutes it was 5-3 Ravens.
The two sides then exchanged tries with #8 Karl Moran driving low and extending his right arm to touch down followed by a well worked multi-phase try by Westshore, 12-10 Ravens. The first half ended with the Ravens’ flanker Kol Henrikson running a good hard line northeast and downhill breaking some tackles along the way to score and extend the lead to 19-10. But the Ravens did not get out of the half unscathed as fullback Aaron McLelland just back from the 7s in Dubai was decked with a hard hit which kept him down for a while and jarred his shoulder keeping him out for the second half.
Just as the second half got underway a Westshore player was yellow carded for hitting Raven winger Graham Turner in the air as he was catching a high ball. But it was only when the 10 minute spell was ending that the Ravens got on the board. The Raven pack had drawn a penalty with a dominant set (thanks to the return of locks, Phelan and Clarke and the addition of prop Peter Houlihan). Soon after the ensuing lineout in the visitors’ end the Ravens moved the ball left from a ruck and #10 Harjun Gill delivered a miss pass on the money to Turner who finished with a classic wing try bursting 15 metres laser straight down the sideline and touching down with a dive just inside the corner flag, 24-10 Ravens at 50 minutes.
For the last 30 minutes it was a hard affair with Westshore controlling much of the possession and their scrum half Andrew Ferguson directing things effectively. Again Ben Grant was a leading tackler and on one occasion he held up a threatening runner and ripped the ball away to settle the situation. Centre AJ King was stretched in defence and had to go off with a hamstring injury at the three quarter mark. But the Raven defence, as it has for most of the season, stuck to it and held Westshore off the scoresheet even as the game was opening up in the visitors’ favour. Jon Phelan, Paul Ahn and Cully Quirk returned the favour with a few good crash runs of their own as time moved on and in the end the Ravens crossed once more through Sam Clarke in the dying minutes.
It has been a long tough fall of competition and travel. Injuries have piled up. A Raven Christmas wish list would be for a full recovery from serious leg injuries suffered this past year by Tom McKeen, Huw Grundy, Charlie Thorpe and Sean Hase and a quick recovery for Garret Garbe, Aaron McLelland , AJ King and others who are currently banged up.
A shout out to the coaching staff led by James Thompson is in order as their high level of preparation has kept the Ravens’ practice and game play at a high level. The board led by Frank Fekete, Rick Bourne and Rob Jenkins together with manager Darlene Saxer among others has kept things on track as well through a long spell of away games and island travel and they too deserve thanks. The Rippers get some kudos as well as they are on the upswing just two bonus point wins out of a playoff position after beating #5 Westshore 34-20 this week. The club’s U16 and U18 teams also had excellent winning seasons narrowly missing out on appearances in the BC finals last week.
So now, after the Christmas break, it is off to Houston, aka “Space City”... Sugarland Texas actually, to take on the Houston Sabercats in a mid-January pre-season game with the new professional team. Houston we do not have a problem!
Ravens Fall To UBC in Second Leg 22-5: Host Westshore This Weekend
by Peter MacDonald
Despite the heavy November rains the Jericho pitch was in good shape for the rematch with UBC and, to everyone’s delight as well, the rain let up from precisely 2:30 to 4:15 pm for the premier game. It was nice to be at home for the second time in the tenth and last game of the first half of the season. Coming off four games in a row on the Island had some thinking the Ravens had been annexed to the Crimson Tide but ferry food is in the past now and home cooking will be the thing in the second half.
The first half belonged to UBC as their pack dominated set scrums and had their way repeatedly. Cali Martinez, Connor Sampson and Clint Lemkus are a front row that few can match up with. And as an eight man unit UBC were well oiled delivering an initial surge and then keeping the pressure on till the Raven pack unravelled, a penalty was called or the ball was out. With prop Garret Garbe (fractured orbital bone) and hooker Paul Ahn (concussion protocol) out and with two backrow players slotting into second row in the absence of specialist locks it was never going to be easy but when prop Chris Taylor was shown a red card near the end of the half things got dire in the sets.
Suffice it to say that the Ravens had next to no ball in the first half and UBC ran in three tries to take a 22-0 lead into the half. The first try came at the quarter mark when, after a backpedalling set, a Raven player spilled the pick up just outside his in goal area and a UBC player grabbed it and dotted down. Then, in the last five minutes, a pick and go sequence, after a strong UBC set, drove in a try followed shortly after by a well worked try finished in the left corner after the UBC backs had had a good ramble.
The second half would be 14 Ravens vs UBC’s 15 but the Ravens acquitted themselves well despite being short a man and further weakened in the front row. Possession was 50/50 in the second half and the Ravens made their mark more in the tackle than with ball in hand but there was excellent spirit and something good to take away to the next game. Karl Moran led the way in the tackling, drilling a UBC lock on one occasion and then making the next two tackles as well. Flanker Simon Etheve and newcomer and fellow flanker David O’Donoghue were also notable in defence.
The backs were starved for ball till near the end. In addition to the set scrum problems, inconsistent lineouts and a series of three Raven knock-ons in mid half contributed to the lack of offence. AJ King ran well in the centres and Sean Ferguson scored the lone try from right wing near the end after a hard tackle turned over UBC ball inside their 22.
UBC were full value for the win. They substituted freely in the second half, were missing some impact players as well and lost centre Niko Clironomos to a leg injury 10 minutes into the game. If the two teams meet again it will be in the playoffs.
The Ravens finish off the “first half” with Westshore at home next week and then will resume in the new year on January 13 as the guests of the Houston Sabercats in a pre-season friendly with the new pro team. With a patched up tight five anything is possible.