Ravens Win Canadian Club Championship Final: UBC Old Boys Ravens 41 – Brantford Harlequins 3
by Peter MacDonald
On a cool wet Thanksgiving Sunday in North Vancouver the Canadian Rugby Foundation hosted the national club final, the first to be held in many years, at a well-attended Klahanie Park. It was a BC versus Ontario tilt as the Ravens had defeated the Fredericton Loyalists and Brantford had defeated the Edmonton Nor’Westers in the Friday semi-finals.
After Raven lock Cam McWilliam drove in from close range in the early going for a 7-0 Raven lead the Harlequins took over possession and territory for most of the next 35 minutes. Their big punishing forwards kept up the pressure in both the loose and the sets and veteran fly half Steve Piatek ran an effective hi tempo backline. But it was the Ravens who tacked on two more tries before the half with the very limited ball they had. At 15 minutes, after a No 8 pick by Conor Hamilton, a ruck and a second straight run from lock Brian Moylett, Moylett in a stand up tackle turned the ball inside left with his right hand to scrum half Jordan Sandover-Best who was running a good line off the ball. The Brantford forwards were retreating from the set and their inside backs were occupied in the tackles, so Sandover-Best had nothing but daylight and he outran the cover defence for a 60 metre try. And in the last sequence before the half, from a lineout, the Ravens shifted the ball wide right to winger Sean Ferguson whose well weighted chip kick was fielded off a difficult bounce by fullback Aaron McLelland who had sped past the last defender to register a backbreaking try, 24-3 at the half.
The real story of the first half though was the Raven team defending which turned the Harlequins away time after time. At one point near the end of the half Brantford had three five metre set scrums in a row. Good tackling led by Kol Henrikson, Nathan Kendrick and Jessy Lee kept the attack at bay and in the third set the Ravens forced a penalty against the Harlequins which eased the pressure with a clearing kick. The half time score was a real head scratcher for the visitors who appeared to be the stronger side in many respects.
Possession in the second half was even but again it was only the Ravens who crossed the line. Moylett picked up a ball knocked on in the tackle after a big hit by Dim Gotsopoulos and ran it in with few defenders in sight. McLelland again outran a defender to chase down a grubber this time from Connor Braid. And finally Braid took a hole and passed to Kol Henrikson for a ramble down the left sideline for the last tally.
Both teams subbed fully in the last 20 minutes as Brantford gradually accepted the outcome no matter how frustrated they may have felt. To quote myself from a match report written two weeks ago “the game didn’t look particularly one sided but the score doesn’t lie I guess.” (That game was against Burnaby in Premier league play and, as in this game the score was 24-3 at the half, and six tries were scored, three in each half. Only the final scores differed, it was 46-3 versus Burnaby.) The real commonalities were the Ravens’ stout defence and their capitalizing when opportunities to score presented themselves.
Credit must go to the coaches who handled excellently the logistics of a 30 man squad with two guest players and a number of recent new players to the club. The planning for two games over three days with a view to team tactics, player fitness and positioning is not a casual enterprise. They got it right. Much credit also to Jorden Sandover-Best who was the only Raven player to go 80 minutes in both games, ran all day both days, bounced back from more than one big hit and was voted Best Back of the tournament. What a big heart he showed. Thanks to the guest players Nakai Penny and Connor Braid who both put in top notch performances. Welcome to Conor Finn, Brian Moylett and Jessy Lee who debuted for the Ravens in this tournament and stood out.
Thanks to the Capilano club, the Canadian Rugby Foundation and the visiting teams for a great weekend. It was nice to see the legendary Canada captain, Hans DeGoede, working the till and greeting people at the entry area and presiding over the festivities. He is, like everyone else at the Foundation, a volunteer working at the grassroots level to further Canadian rugby and provide opportunities to players where needed. Looking forward to next year if we get the chance.