Ravens Claim Bonus Point Win at the Death: Ravens 26 - Nanaimo 7
by Peter MacDonald
With the Rippers game defaulted, an early 12:15pm start to the Premier game to accommodate the visitors and some lingering rain, it was truly the hard core who were there at the starting whistle for the last regular season game of the year. Coach Thompson and his staff were looking to rest a few of the regular starters and to provide opportunities to others but also with an eye to securing a four try bonus point win to move into third place in the standings and a home playoff game with Seattle next week. Well his crystal ball was working as, with one minute left in the game, the fourth try was made and the game plan was consummated.
Nanaimo were stuck in right from the start, laying out hard hits at the gain line and testing the Raven defence. After 30 minutes it was 7-5 to Nanaimo as a Raven try from a five metre set scrum was answered by Nanaimo’s excellent scrum half Sam Fowler who popped through the edge of a ruck and beat the last defender with two harsh jinks to score under the posts from 50 metres out. After some hard running by Rob Clarke, Dan Cervino and Conor Hamilton the Ravens were at the doorstep late in the half but an ill advised long pass fell to ground and a Nanaimo back kicked it on. But for the efforts of winger Jeff Vreys who chased back inside his 22 to fall on the ball and prevent a try the visitors could have gone into the half comfortably ahead. As it was, Vreys moments later came into the line from the blind side and made a break which then saw the ball move through hands till Chris Taylor drove in the last few strides for a 12-7 Raven lead at the half.
The second half was more hard slogging for both sides. The Ravens were foiled at the Nanaimo line a few times, denied by knock-ons, a not releasing call and some good Nanaimo defending. But the third try came at 55 minutes after Hamilton, then Pat Richardson and finally Dan Cervino each drove further ahead to the line after a lineout/maul with Cervino finally crossing, 19-7 Ravens. Although centre Michael Nevin was having a blinder opening up holes in the Nanaimo backline and tackling well and Cervino was popping up everywhere on attack the Ravens could not break down the visitors for that fourth important try till the 70 minute mark. A series of phases ended with a quick pass from Sean Hase to Vreys who beat his man wide right and sped to the corner and into in goal... only to overzealously angle towards the posts and lose the handle on the ball under pressure from a defender.
Well, back to the drawing board. After some nervous time on the sidelines at 79 minutes another long series of phases finally ended with Jorden Sandover Best darting through from a ruck for the much wanted bonus point try. Phew! Moments later it was all over and coach Thompson was proven to be a genius again.
Nanaimo’s 9/10 combination is as good as it gets in the Premier league with Fowler always a threat to run in addition to his excellent delivery and Stephen Gillies also running and tackling well as well as making good decisions for the backline throughout. The Nanaimo forwards were hardnosed particularly #7 Antonio Corbin. Kelepi Gucake had some hard runs for the Ravens and Benz Henrikson, Nick Waggott and Pat Richardson were notable tacklers on the day. It was a solid hard fought win that showed the depth of the squad now available.
Next week the Rippers are up at UBC for the playoffs and the Ravens will follow at Jericho against Seattle. Perhaps the UBC Skytrain extension will be an option or Leo Fumano will be sponsoring the transport. Somehow two very good sides should be on the field with hopefully plenty of support for both games.