Ravens Take Their Chances in Win Over Bays Ravens 38 – Bays 23
by Peter MacDonald
On a windy day at MacDonald Park the Ravens prevailed in a close game between the two top teams from the mainland and Island pre-season competitions. The game hung in the balance till the last ten minutes and, but for a couple of early turnovers by the Bays, it could have been a different result.
The Bays controlled possession methodically for the first 25 minutes with Tom Burton slotting three penalty kicks. But the Ravens, in their only attacking sequence to that point, scored a try from a line out on the right, first phase crash and blind side attack with fullback Aaron McLelland entering the channel, making ground and passing inside to scrum half Alex Ball for the unconverted try, 9-5 Bays.
The Bays then set themselves back with two costly errors that gifted the Ravens a couple of tries. First, with their fullback in, a Bays’ pass in the outside backs hit the deck allowing Raven centre Noah Bain to scoop it up and run it in from 35 metres out. Then from a goal line dropout the Bays’ kicker nudged the kick only a few yards hoping to collect it but a Raven was there and popped it to a big forward who easily crashed in for the try, 19-9 Ravens at 36 minutes.
Finally, at the half time whistle, the Ravens ran in a bonus point try, again rather easily. Donald Carson took a McLelland pass and made yards down the right channel before laying it off inside to a surging Ball who took it in, 26-9 at the half. The Ravens were fortunate to be up by 17 points and would now have to defend the north end with the sun, wind and slope working against them.
The Bays went to work in the second half keeping it tight and limiting Raven possession. Pick and go tries by the Bays at 45 and 58 minutes brought the score to 26-23 Ravens and the trend was looking to be the Bay’s’ friend at the three-quarter mark. But the Ravens perked up and the game opened up which played into the Ravens hands. A McLelland up and under for his winger Mark Wandeto was fielded by Phil Mack and sent back downfield to a waiting McLelland who hoisted another kick into Bays’ territory. A favourable bounce allowed McLelland to dive on it and flick it up and three passes later winger Aga Ligamy took it in under the posts untouched, 31-23 Ravens at 70 minutes. Five minutes later, three of the fastest guys on the pitch, Wandeto, Ball and McLelland, combined for a final try after Wandeto made the initial break down the left sideline, 38-23 Ravens.
The score flattered the Ravens somewhat but they avoided handling errors in the windy conditions, survived their early game ferry legs and amped up their pace at the end to ice the game. Their ruck ball was slow and speculative but that should improve with more familiarity. Back row players Matt Bluck and Matt Chan had good games as did the outside backs.
The Bays’ pack was solid all day long in all phases with Jimmy De Goede named Man of the Match in the forwards. The backs ran well also but an errant pass here and some defensive difficulties there perhaps made for one of those days where a forward might have raised an eyebrow about his teammates’ shortcomings on the day… (been there, felt that) it was ever thus.
In the clubhouse afterward Ravens president Frank Fekete gave a shoutout to the Canadian womens rugby team, led by the Bays own Sophie De Goede. It was a great show of rugby and heart by the Canadians against England which, for me, brought back memories of the Canadian men against New Zealand in the 1991 RWC quarterfinal. A proud day for the Canadian women.
The Rippers won the reserve game with a late try, 22-21, to stay undefeated. More action against the Island next week as the Ravens are at home hosting CW at Jericho.