Old Boys Advance to Two Finals: Ravens 27- UBC 22, Rippers 20 – Burnaby 15
by Peter MacDonald
On a sunny day in late April it was toques on not “tarps off” for the supporters as a cold wind blew through the Burnaby Lake and UBC grounds all day. For the players, in particular in the Rippers game in Burnaby, the strong wind meant that any pass made without firm intent could waver, dip, fly backward or be held up leading to knock-ons and counterattacking opportunities. Managing the conditions and the opponent was the order of the day.
Shortly after the opening whistle the Rippers, playing from north to south, mauled in a try from a lineout and Sean Hase converted, despite the wind, from the right sideline. Holding 75% of possession in the first half the Rippers took a 17-3 lead into the half after Hase went blind from a maul on the doorstep and converted again from out wide. Keeping it tight was working. Moving it wide with longer passes inevitably led to misadventures that Burnaby would counter from and only good defending by the Rippers and the odd Burnaby knock-on kept Burnaby off the scoresheet.
The second half was a different story as Burnaby now heading south was either benefitting from the wind or was starting to wear down the Rippers as it was Burnaby now who had the greater share of possession. At 47 minutes the Burnaby winger #11 finished off a nice phase of ball movement with a try in the right corner to tighten the score to a one try game 17-10. But the Ravens answered with a penalty kick at 50 minutes requiring Burnaby now to tally at least twice. Although Burnaby’s pack was stronger in the sets and their impact subs were an advantage, the Rippers conceded only one more try late in the game at 75 minutes when Burnaby scored from close range bringing the score to 20-15 where it stayed till the end.
It was a total team effort that left at least four Rippers down and needing attention throughout the game. Dan Cervino took a hard low tackle just above the knee and soldiered on with a limp throughout. Matty Suez and Jake Wolfman on the flanks stood out in defence along with their backrow mate Nick Waggott. Michael Nevin stripped a Burnaby player of the ball near the end as did Cervino to help secure the win. Ten points from kicks was huge. Containing the Burnaby attack in the second half won the day and it took all hands on deck to do it and earn a trip to the final.
Burnaby’s veterans Luca, Gough, Laudisio and Gotegote made life difficult for the Ravens as did Matt Chan who nearly sprung himself a few times. Nate Mantle as a sub was a handful laying the groundwork for the last try. It was anybody’s game near the end. Each team put up two tries. The Rippers advance knowing they were truly tested.
The much anticipated rematch of last year’s final did not disappoint. Both teams were at full strength and had been peaking for this game for a while. It was the Ravens who drew first blood on an angled close range grubber from lock Brian Moylett touched down by fullback Aaron McLelland 10 minutes in, 5-0 Ravens. ( I won’t comment on how this could happen two weeks in a row, particularly when Brian had shamelessly flagged the move on Twitter midweek ).
At the quarter mark UBC found itself down two men as Ruttan tackled Jorden Sandover Best on a quick tap before retreating and a high tackle quickly followed. Apart from a penalty kick put through on the first offence the Ravens could not take further advantage of the plurality. In fact UBC had the best scoring chance while playing short as Clint Lemkus drove directly to the Raven line with men on his back only to lose the handle down low inches from the line. The only other score in the half came after the 40 minute mark. The Ravens infringed deep in UBC territory and UBC kicked straight to touch from the penalty mark. A tap and then a kick to touch would have ended the half. As it was, the Ravens won the UBC lineout and after sustained pressure Moylett crossed the line for a 15-0 lead at the half.
With the Ravens winning sets against the head and having a possession advantage through 50 minutes the UBC backs were kept at bay till a kick was lofted to fullback Andrew Coe whose counterattack run set UBC up for a long spell in the Raven end and a scrum try at 53 minutes, 15-7 Ravens. UBC had flipped the switch and were now on the front foot. Coe nearly scored, big hits by the Ravens Colby Mason and Conor Hamilton left them as tacklers down and struggling briefly and David O’Donoghue was then binned for not retreating at a quick tap and the kick was made, 15-10 Ravens. At 65 minutes UBC were rampant scoring after Coe sent them into full flight down the right sideline with the ball then moving briskly inside to Nick Allen, Harry Smith and finally James Carson who was in full stride for a finish under the posts 17-15 UBC with a suggestion of floodgates opening.
But rather than wilting, the Ravens answered promptly with Grant Crowell diving in on the overlap after hard runs at the line by Hamilton, Pat Richardson, Moylett and Crowell himself whose insertion in the last quarter added some needed energy, 22-17 Ravens. A knocked on kickoff then gave UBC life and from the set UBC stretched the Ravens right and then left where Elias Ergas dove in for the try in the corner 22-22 with the difficult sideline kick unconverted at 70 minutes. The Ravens had one last try in them as UBC spilled the ball at the edge of a ruck and Curtis Delmonico dove on it and popped it up to Crowell whose straight run set up a ruck drawing defenders in and allowing quick ball left to Mason who dove in for the score near the corner 27-22 Ravens.
The last 8 minutes were nail biting times as UBC were pushed out desperately near the Raven line, a hard tackle by Crowell was needed to halt Nick Allen’s run and finally Nathan Kendrick held up Coe’s run and forced a maul turnover as referee Assmus looked at his watch. From the ensuing set scrum the ball was kicked to touch by the Ravens and they were on to the final.
Coach Curry Hitchborn and captain Jake Ikeda were gracious in defeat acknowledging the high standard of the game and the benefit to their program of such games. Some UBC players will have played their last game including Ikeda and a few others who have maintained the tradition of excellent open rugby at UBC. The Ravens will go into the final representing UBC as well, its partner on one side of the draw.
There were too many good performances on both sides to mention them all but for the Ravens, O’Donoghue and Richardson were doing hard work all day as well as cleaning up bad ball on at least three occasions when a turnover would have been bad news. Kendrick throwing in at the lineouts was spot on on a windy day. Finally the pack set the foundation as it had the edge on the day against a top notch opponent.
On to Burnaby Lake for the finals after two very tough tests.