Westshore Men's Premier & Reserve Close out Season With Wins at Klahanie; Women's Premier & Men's Div 3 Continue to Playoffs
by Clancy McDonnell
Men’s Premier: WRFC 38 – Capilano 19
Westshore’s Velox Valhallians finished their season with a successful trip to Capilano’s Klahanie Park. In delightful rainy weather they took to the fields after a ceremony to celebrate Capilano’s 50th. There was a good crowd in attendance, most of them loyal to Caps, but several supporters made the trip, including club president Mike Holmes whose supporting voice could be heard around the field as normal. The visitors took a 12-5 lead into half time, and then added another try before Capilano drew level mid-way through the second half. From there the VVs scored three unanswered tries to close the game out.
The VVs started with a whimper, knocking on from the kick-off then fumbling shortly after in their own quarter before managing an exit. Capilano looked to exploit the lapses, but handling let them down as well. Thereafter the VVs saw more success as they were able to convert a couple of opportunities. One was a typically astute piece of work from Cole Mosychuk, with the flanker celebrating his return to the lineup with a mauling try.
Capilano had their moments. Like other teams before them, they exploited the VV’s breakdown coverage, sneaking back onto their feet after releasing the ball in the tackle then charging through the space behind the ruck. Their half-back Chris Robinson caught the eye. His pass was steady, and his work around the field was particularly savvy. He ran swervingly, varied his kicking accurately, and carried his team back into the contest by scoring a good try to equalize at 19 – 19 in the second half.
But the VVs had another trick up their sleeves in the form of young prop-forward Bryce McKinnon. Having put in an 80 minute two-try performance in the Premier Reserve game, he eventually located his mouthguard and was able to take the field again. Amidst regular prop tasks he made several bullocking runs, with two tries the result.
The game finished with a good bit of skill by inside-centre Isaac Gonevou, who gathered the ball, pranced to break the first tackle, then released a sympathetic offload to tireless second rower Jason Gagnier. The VV stalwart set off on a hypotenuse run for the corner to beat the cover-defence amidst much hollering from his teammates and the visiting fans.
Coach Aaron Frisby was justifiably upbeat about the game, seeing in it cause for optimism. “It was a great way to finish off the season and put a product on the field we can be proud of. We struck early, fought to win the game, and played as a team throughout. There were also some exciting glimpses of the future developing players at the club. I think we’ve laid a strong foundation for future success.”
It marks the end of a mixed season for the Valhallians. They knocked on the door of the best teams at times, but were outclassed on other occasions. Seventh position on the table puts them at the top of the chasing pack, but the gap in points on the table between them and the 6th place Seattle (32 vs. 43) is also a fair representation. The objective, obviously, is to win the competition, so with that in mind here are some observations.
Several winnable games were lost in the last 10 minutes, pointing to a mix of fitness and game-sense maturity. Across the board there was lots of hard work in defence, and never a lack of fight, but cumulatively there was probably a lack of the sort of starch that the best teams exemplify.
In the backs there were several players who enjoyed outstanding moments and games, but form, injury, and representative duties probably prevented the sort of selection consistency that a) is traditionally a hallmark of the best teams, and b) leads to the sort of gelling and execution habits that will challenge the top teams. In-the-moment decision making was mixed, and there are a couple of players who are yet to discover the benefits of hitting the ball at pace.
The pack enjoyed a tad more consistency of personnel. The scrum provided a stable platform throughout the season, and the lineout was good except for a couple of blips. In general play there were consistently strong performances by individuals, but cumulatively and on average, they struggled to advance beyond the ‘one-out runners’ pattern.
The ‘glass half-full’ view is easy to explain, of course. At their best, the VVs tore into opponents with a healthy disregard for table standings. The scrum put in some mighty performances, and the backs scythed through at times. A few club players came back inside the tent, as it were. A number of youthful players will be smarter and more physically capable for their experiences, and are poised to deliver consistently high standards. Although the performances weren’t always cohesive, a strong leadership group emerged by the end of the season, marshalled by the ever committed and technically proficient Foster Dewitt.
The captain answered every question asked of him this season. He scrummed well at #s 1 through 6, threw accurately in the lineout, jumped and lifted in the lineout, carried assuredly with the trademark cocked shoulder bearing the brunt of tackles, and struck the right tone with his teammates. He played every minute of every game. A man for all seasons.
Onwards and upwards.
Men’s Premier Reserve: WRFC 32 – Capilano 17
In the earlier game the VVs were also victorious in their final game of the season. Playing with an enthusiasm that belied the weather they carried a lead into half time and then flexed early in the second half to put the game beyond doubt. Capilano kept fighting and scored a couple of good tries for their trouble.
The Westshore 2nd XV finished 9th on the table – not at the very bottom, but not far off. A number of players graduated from playing in the 2nd team into being regular Prems players, with a couple more ready to take the step. Coming up against a couple of the varsity programs when they’re in full flow, it’s hard to see how the league makes sense. Beating the Meraloma on home turf, when they hadn’t been defeated for a season and a half, made it seem like anything is possible. Captain Matt Kemp has been critical to the team's successes, the most consistent player on the team and growing in his leadership role. Spencer Adams has been the heartbeat of the whole playing group - the maestro of the one-liner and finally learning how to score tries.
The Premier Women beat Capilano (on the Island) 31-17. I didn’t manage to find any reports, but presumably they’d tell you how they didn’t execute properly and it was closer than it should have been. They have a break before playing a semi-final at home on April 27th.
The Women’s 1st Division Cow-Shore team lost to Abbotsford 34-52. Next up for them is a quarter-final against Bayside this Saturday up in Cowichan.
The Men’s 3rd Division played what I understand to have been a friendly against a CW + friends team. Next up for them is a semi-final on the mainland on April 27th.