Ravens Fall to Late Surge from Pacific Pride 37-21
by Peter MacDonald
On a brilliant fall day at Jericho the mainland rugby community got its first glance of Pacific Pride 2.0 and the Pride were impressive in a close fought game with the Ravens which they blew open in the last 10 minutes with three late tries.
The Pride backs looked dangerous in the early going with #10 Will Kelly leading a group with plenty of speed and fitness. But the Ravens defended well and were first to score at 12 minutes when James Carson boshed a tackler and Cam McWilliam followed up with the try diving in from close range, 7-0 Ravens. The Pride answered though with a try from a lineout and maul sequence begun from 5 metres out, 7-5 Ravens. The Ravens then had a few breaks to inside the Pride’s 22 which ended with speculative grubber kicks which went begging while other more patient decisions might have been more productive. As the half wound down the Pride stepped it up and fullback Alex Russell fielded a high ball, countered and following a quick ruck flanker Ed Ilnicki had a long ramble setting up a score from close range, 10-7 Pride at the half.
The Pride notched a third try at 45 minutes when left winger David Richard sped away to the right after receiving a kick and weaved ahead providing the field position from which Ilnicki drove in low for the try, 15-7 Pride. The Ravens wasted no time answering as at 50 minutes Aaron McLelland rounded his man on the right sideline and shovelled a one handed pass inside to Jeff Vreys who cut in hard and finished near the posts, 15-14 Pride. Then, after the Ravens gave up a penalty in front of their posts (and 3 points to the Pride) for not releasing the Ravens took the lead with a well-deserved try. While Jordan Sandover Best had looked to have been impeded as he chased down a grubber (and calls for a penalty or penalty try fell on deaf ears), from the 22 metre restart the Ravens continued to pressure the Pride ending with Robbie Jones finishing things off. Jones’ dummy was not bought but he followed up with a pump fake and spin move which was, 21-18 Ravens at 65 minutes.
The game which to this point had been a 50/50 see saw affair was broken open though at 70 minutes when the substitute left winger Bowen took a long miss pass at the sideline and had a direct lane though he had to wriggle out of two desperation cross cover tackles and get to his feet to put in an emphatic score, 25-21 Pride. The Ravens had hung in to this point and had one last foray before the Pride punched in two more late tries. Front rower Marc-Antoine Ouellet drove in for one and Kelly finished off a 90 metre sequence of phases that had stretched the Raven defence thin. Full credit to the Pride as their fitness and pace won the day in the end.
There were plenty of good performances on both sides. Chris Taylor was a tireless ball carrier for the Ravens, Grant Crowell made lots of hard yards from #8, Cam McWilliam was all over the field as was captain David O’Donoghue in defence. Former Raven Dewald Kotze at hook now for the Pride had a strong game along with Ilnicki and Flesch in the Pride forwards. Kelly, Richard, Russell and centre Mitch Richardson impressed in their backs. It was a high quality game with the Pride raising the bar for the Premier League. Leaving the field Cam McWilliam succinctly summed up what the host players and supporters were feeling: “they were good.” No complaints from anyone as it was a beautiful day and the endorphins would surely be kicking in even before the first beer.