BC Bears vs British Royal Air Force (RAF)

June 24 2018

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BC Bears Defeat British RAF 23-19 Despite Three Yellow Cards and Scoring an Own Goal

[ed. comments below]

It was interesting to watch the BC Bears game after watching the Rugby Canada game and taking some notes. First noteworthy moment came about 5 minutes in when Mike Nieuwenhuysen received a yellow from ref Chris Assmus. I lamented the lack of physicality and aggression by the Canadian defence but this is a good example of how it's trained out of players domestically. Chris is the top ref in Canada but Canada doesn't get much representation on the world stage, simply put he may call the game to the letter of the law but that won't get you any gigs in the Tier 1 world where the game is played on the edge. This seemed a penalty at most. The RAF ball had gone backwards from a missed pass, there was a RAF player lingering in front of the ball carrier, Nieuwenhuysen gave the obstructing player an aggressive shove to clear him out and boom, yellow. Mike went off shaking his head, don't blame him. So how do you handle an obstructing player in Canadian rugby, you don't.

The RAF went ahead by 3 at 9 minutes when Dinbandhu was called on a high tackle. A minute later Pitblado missed a similar kick and a chance to tie it up when RAF were offside. 3-0 RAF

At 11 minutes in Pitblado made amends with a beatifully weighted kick to the wing that bounced up perfectly, the winger wasn't able to get across the line but a penalty was awarded at the ensuing ruck, actually a yellow card to RAF, the second of the match. Canada took a scrum from the penalty, the ball went to Dinbandhu through a couple of hands and out to fullback Fraser Hurst who had the run in, teams were still down to 14. Conversion missed, 5-3.

At 16 minutes a nice chip by Dinbandhu finds space and the touch line to pin RAF well inside their 22. RAF have a weak clearance and the Bears get the lineout outside the 22. They spin it wide quickly and from 2nd phase they find the overlap to score. It was hard to tell if the linking player who made the break was the fullback or the other wing coming across but the final recipient was Jared Douglas playing #14 not #11 as the roster indicated. The conversion was missed - that's 7 points missed from the boot so far, something that will need to be addressed.

At 20 minutes Dinbandhu steals a ball at the ruck and the #10 is impressing across the board with passing, kicking and at the breakdown. He's the size of a loose forward so the future is bright and options are plenty for the young Bayside player.

For the next 10 minutes play is scrappy, the ball never leaves the RAF half but BC just can't capitalize, a dropped ball here and there and some resolute RAF defence. Ollie Nott, David Dinbandhu, James Pitblado, and the #11 Jean Koorsten are looking good. Koorsten is impressive in his work rate, he's on the other side of the field on attack, giving the Bears an extra attacker out wide. The pressure and territory advantage pay off when the RAF lineout goes awry and #8 Ollie Nott takes the overthown ball into the goal area for BC's 3rd try. This one is converted 17-6.

Near the end of the half the RAF finally get down inside the BC half aided by some penalties. Mike Nieuwenhuysen again draws the ire of ref Chris Assmus. I like the way Mike plays, this is the aggression we want to see in Canadian rugby but it gets penalized domestically. He rag dolls the RAF player in the tackle and positions over the player for the steal but gets called for not releasing, marginal, he never had his hand on the ball just the players jersey. A bit of argie bargie comes out of that with Mike vs 4 RAF players, his centre partner comes over to help. Meanwhile the ref has allowed the quick tap and the ball is inside the BC 5 metre line. Another penalty and RAF go for goal, 17-9.

The second half starts with a penalty to RAF but it goes wide. Subs are in now Cole Mosychuk is in at openside, Vikilani at #8, looks like the wingers are new, Shea Wakefield and John Braddock come in. BC moving ahead but an aggressive clear out by BC is penalized by the ref. There's very little tolerance for aggression in this match. After the Canada v USA match a kiwi coach who used to ply his trade with a couple of BC clubs and now coaches professionally in Japan made this comment, "It's important to play a style of rugby that suits the profile of the athletes - Canadians are naturally aggressive athletes so a game plan should be developed around that as a strength." It's hard to reinforce naturally aggressive behaviour on the pitch when it gets whistled up at every turn at the domestic level.

The kicking from Pitblado and Dinbandhu goes down a notch as concentration wanes, an aimless kick by the #10 Dinbandhu gives RAF a good counter attack. Dinbandhu tries to make up for the error by poaching the ball, he has two so far today but Assmus calls him for not supporting his weight. 17-12

Dinbandhu throws a needless 50/50 pass that's intercepted when BC setting up for good attacking position outside the RAF 22. Every time he does that he goes back two points in evaluation for every one he's worked hard to attain. A lot of potential and talent but a bit lax in ball security.

BC get a scrum penalty and take the 3 points, 20-12.

BC are losing their way however, with all the replacements and the halfbacks getting tired and losing focus, their game is sloppy now. The scrum has stepped up however and is delivering penalties. Almost a try from a break by a player with no jersey number who offloads to Jared Douglas who can't find the handle on the ball to make the final pass for a sure try. He comes up hobbling from the tackle. More pressure inside the RAF 22 but BC lose their lineout, mistakes everywhere creeping in.

A try by the player with no jersey number, think that's Clayton Meeres but the RAF convince the ref it was passed forward, it wasn't. Mike Nieuwenhuysen was held up by the RAF, Meeres joined the tackle and ripped the ball out of Nieuwenhuysen arms. There was never any space between them and they both had hold of the ball for at least a second.

Pitblado has a play he won't want to see again, the equivalent of an own goal in soccer, he gifts a try to the RAF. The RAF kick the ball into touch, Pitblado wants to take a quick throw in even though there's 4 RAF defenders and 1 BC attacker. He goes for it anyway, misses the player and one of the 4 RAF pick it up, thank you very much sir and an easy 7 points. Again a mental part of the game impacted by fatigue. 20-19

BC get a penalty 25 metres out in front of the posts and it sails through, 23-19

BC get another yellow, one of the Vikilani's who subbed in. Another case of aggression going wrong, the ball was a couple of metres out of the #10s hands when the impact came. Vikilani had committed to the tackle when the ball was still being held. It's the type of aggression that Canada needs to bring back in, you see it in pro rugby all the time but it needs to be fine tuned as it will be harshly dealt with in the domestic amateur leagues.

BC get another yellow card as they're aggressively contesting every breakdown trying to steal the ball, again to be applauded and nurtured but fine-tuned. The call is marginal again, two BC players over the ball and just one RAF player, he's isolated but the ref says not supporting their weight. Many refs would have given the call to defending team on that one. We have to make sure we're calling the amateur game the same way the Tier 1 pros and not punishing positive aggressive play.

BC hang on with a remarkable display of defence, they get more penalties called against them but are resolute in their tackling and with their speed on defence. Well done to the players.

Overall pleased with the play from BC, they left two tries on the field, one actually crossed the line but the ref called it back. They played aggressive defensively which is a real positive. It was harshly penalized but it's what we want at the international level. If we can align our refereeing standards to international standards not only will the players benefit but Canadian refs may start getting selected for international matches more often.

A lot of positives moving forward to their next match vs Wolfpack.

BC Bears v RAF on June 23rd at UBC 1pm Kickoff

This is the first match for the Bears. It likely will be a young team as many players are committed to other competitions such as the men's senior team, MLR and the U20 side. It's always difficult to gauge who will commit to the CRC competition and a lot depends on what the national coach tells players. Kingsley Jones has shunned the BC Premier competition, does he have other plans for the players during the CRC? The registration tax was introduced to pay for some tours for the Canada team prior to November, there's no word yet on the dates of those tours or what Jones' plans are for the Canada A squad.

The CRC semis and final are schedule for August 23 and 26 in Calgary but there are regional matches on August 4, 7, 10 in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

The RAF defeated the Wolfpack 30-26 in a close match to start their tour. They're playing a Canadian Forces team midweek and then the Bears on Saturday.

Team selections will be likely announced on Thursday or Friday. There hasn't been a live stream announced at the time of writing.

from BC Rugby

Hello Rugby Fans,

A unique match is on the horizon as the British Royal Air Force (RAF) will be travelling to UBC in Vancouver on June 23rd to take on our very own BC Bears in a highly competitive exhibition match. Tickets are just $10 for adults and free for children under 12 (as well as High School students with ID).

This will be the Bears’ first game since they secured the 2017 Canadian Rugby Championship (CRC) title and MacTier Cup in Calgary in emphatic style last summer. The game against the RAF will serve as a big test for them as they start their build-up to defending their crown at this year's CRC tournament in July and August.

Their opponents are not to be underestimated and will present a real physical challenge for the Bears. The RAF are the reigning British Inter-Service Champions, a tournament stretching back to 1920. These matches, played between the Royal Navy, the Army, and the Royal Air Force are a huge draw in the UK and extremely competitive. Crowds regularly exceed 20,000 and have been known to swell to 80,000 for key matches. We want you to invite you to come out and support the BC Bears and the RAF in this rare matchup.

This game will not only be a draw for rugby fans, but the pitting of a British Armed Forces side versus the BC boys will surely bolster national pride. We also expect British ex-pats, veterans, and international service personnel to enjoy this match and the inherent camaraderie between Canadians and the British which will surely be on display. It is a rugby tradition to welcome touring sides with open arms and treat them with the best hospitality, so grab your friends and family and come enjoy the spectacle. Details for the game are below.

When: Saturday, June 23rd, KO 1:00pm (PT)
Where: UBC’s Gerald McGavin Rugby Centre
Tickets: Adult entry is just $10, available at the event

Free for children under 12, as well as High School students with ID.

Pemberton Holmes
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