Ravens Stung Early Then Respond: Ravens 64 – Nanaimo 14
by Peter MacDonald
On a leap year Saturday the Ravens and the Hornets leapt over the reserve game, as Nanaimo were unable to field a full reserve side, and jumped right into the premier game with full benches of rested substitutes. While a strong northerly wind supported the windsurfers and the kite surfers off of Locarno beach it would not be a factor in this game as the Ravens would go on to outscore the visitors five tries to one in each half.
But for the first 25 minutes it was anybody’s game as Nanaimo drew first blood, their forwards were physical and they held a slight possession advantage. A miscue in the Ravens’ backs left the ball on the deck at the five minute mark and Nanaimo’s big centre Mua Tiumafifi picked it up, made strides through the Ravens’ backs and sent a teammate in under the posts, 7-0 Nanaimo, a no resting on your laurels moment for the hosts. The Hornets #9 Sam Reimer and #10 Jordan Hooke then continued to spin the ball with precision pressuring the Ravens for a spell. And during this period the Ravens’ captain David O’Donoghue took a hard hit to the back of his head near a ruck and had to leave the game, the first of five Ravens to depart through injury or precaution.
The Ravens began their move near the 20 minute mark with a try by #10 Aaron McLelland who took a gap and darted in from close range, 7-7. As they had last week, the Ravens then took over possession and the game at the 25 minute mark when fullback Michael Hogan joined the line and sent Colby Mason in for the try, 12-7 Ravens. Three more tries followed before the half, McLelland accounted for two as gaps began to appear and hooker Angus MacPhail dove in from close range to end the half, 33-7.
With a strong bench the Ravens made substitutions at the half but their play did not drop off. At 45 minutes right winger Jeff Vreys streaked down the right sideline and turned the ball in to support from new #10 Brian Tyrer who then sent Jordan Sandover Best in untouched for the try. Four more Raven tries followed: flanker Matt Chan dove in after a few jinks by Tyrer had opened things up for a close range pick and go sequence, Cam McWilliam on a low hard drive from in close, left winger Nolan McAllister who recovered a high bounce and burst through out wide and finally Chan again who was put away by his Point Grey high school fellow alumnus McAllister after long miss passes from Mark Belvedere and Chris Taylor had opened up space for the local boys. Nanaimo’s Reimer, who was a threat all day, answered mid half with a well-deserved try for the Hornets who in fact had had a good share of possession in the second half but were held at the gain line frequently as the Ravens defended well. Dan Cervino and James Carson stepped in together to lay out a memorable hit at the edge of a ruck and Mason and McWilliam were also prominent in defence.
Sandover Best was lively as usual and made things go, Tyrer had a flawless half, running, distributing and kicking well and prop Jake McLachlan kicked up his heels on a couple of good runs. The Hornets matched up well in set play and moved the ball well in possession but were unable to turn over Raven ball leaving themselves the tough job of shutting down the Ravens who had 10 kickoffs sent their way apart from any other possession advantage they may have had.
The last stretch resumes March 14 in Victoria with a rematch against the Bays.