A Tale of Two Halves: Ravens 29 - Burnaby 19 in BC Premier
by Peter MacDonald
With the wettest January 31st since 1907 behind them, and the promise of some sunshine and rugby to follow, the diehard Raven supporters and alickadoos gathered on the south side of the Burnaby Lake Pavilion and exchanged New Year’s greetings in the warmth of the afternoon sun. As Bobby Brown later quipped about the long winter break “we had all been jonesing for some rugby.” And despite half of the Burnaby hillsides draining into Burnaby Lake the field was in reasonable shape so a good game of rugby would be on offer.
The two captains, O’Leary and O’Donoghue, led out their sides for the second half of the season. Both are rangy, hard flankers wearing the number six jersey, strong leaders with mutual respect, though that sentiment does not always filter down throughout the ranks of their respective sides. In fact, the last game before the break between these two sides had ended with uncontested scrums and an ensuing protest so there were definitely some noses out of joint on both sides.
With a favourable northwest wind the Ravens got the ball and the upper hand early. Angled kicks to touch by Aaron McLelland at fly half provided good field position. First phase Raven ball entailed running crashes centrally from which scrum half Jordan Sandover Best could set up with options left and right. The left option was particularly productive as new left winger Michael Hogan’s educated running and firm fend saw him advance well past the gain line regularly in tight quarters. The net effect? Tries at 5, 10 , 15 and 33 minutes and a 26-0 scoreline in favour of the Ravens at the half. The hosts’ first meaningful possession came at the 18 minute mark and there were only scraps after that. Jeff Vreys, Sandover Best, Tim Richardson and James Carson were the try scorers but the fact that the two month break did not appear to have impaired their execution as a team was the story.
The second half was a completely different story and if you have played enough rugby you have been in games where apparently minor field, wind or weather conditions lead to major advantages to one side for 40 minutes and then to the other. You would not have thought that the prevailing wind and the slow track on this day would have accounted for the 7 tries at the south end, none at the north end and the huge possession advantages enjoyed by the side running south. But that is the way it worked out. With Burnaby now dominating possession they scored at 45, 65 and 70 minutes through Josok (2) on right wing and scrum half Watkins making it a one try game at 26-19 Ravens with 10 minutes to go.
The Burnaby lineout, poor in the first half was now purring. The sets which had been a wash in the first half were now seeing Burnaby taking it to the Ravens and generating penalties. The Burnaby subs coming off a deeper bench were making an impact. Four tries each or worse for the Ravens was looking quite possible as they were now starved for possession. But a Burnaby infringement at the tackle at 74 minutes allowed Colby Mason to slot a pressure penalty kick and the 10 point bulge provided some comfort. The Ravens then dug deep and fended off the late Burnaby push to secure for themselves a 29-19 win.
Of note for the Ravens were Simone Etheve’s first up tackling, Connor Hamilton’s all round game… fielding high kicks, lineout work, tackling, ball running and dishing the offload out of the back of the hand, the direct running of James Carson, Grant Crowell and Colby Mason and the settling influence of Mark Belvedere in the front row. Tim Richardson was having a blinder at No 8 but unfortunately he suffered a shoulder injury early in the second half and had to be replaced. O’Toole and the Burnaby tight five stood out along with Watkins and centre David Dhinbandhu whose soft hands and hard running were a difficult combination. The two evenly matched teams should continue to find success.
Thanks to our Burnaby hosts and good luck to them from here on. Perhaps there will be a rematch in the spring.