It was the worst of times, it was the best of times, and then there was some good things and some really bad stuff, then there was weird crap. That was Saturday at Sullivan in a nutshell. It was the third time this season, to date, that the firsts and thirds were the only teams in action and this time they were at home, together.
The Beavers hosted Richmond RFC in Thirds & Bayside Sharks RFC in Firsts. Many of the old timers can sorta recall when Bayside was Semiahmoo before joining forces with Delta, to become the club we see now. Both visiting clubs have long histories of rugged action going back to the 1970's with Richmond and the 1980's with Bayside. There was added intrigue on the day with the Onion Shield being up for grabs again in the quest for rugby supremacy of the City of Surrey. As with everything in 'The City', nothing comes easy. Every Beavers/Sharks meeting offers respect and reverence for our beloved Paul 'Onion' Iannone, who was a White Rock type who played for both clubs. He played the most for Surrey in all divisions and sometimes with his brother Mark 'Rico' Iannone. At one point he left Surrey to play with a group of friends with Bayside, before coming to his senses and returning. Paul was a talented musician who played guitar & harmonica. I believe he sat in with the infamous Mud Bay Blues Band from time to time, when he wasn't on shift as a Surrey Firefighter and or building a house. As with most musicians Paul was especially noted for his ability to party HARD. When you add the fierce competitor he was on the pitch, it wasn't hard to see why both clubs loved him, and why we honour him today, besides him being taken from us too soon.
Another dimension to the day was the first meeting for new Beaver coach Dave Tait to renew acquaintances with his former club, being Richmond.
SBAA 3rd Division Men vs Richmond RFC – Loss 23-5
The Third Division opened the day with a fortified line up. Former Richmond RFC member and coach, Dave Tait (now with Surrey), passed on his scouting report to the Thirsty Thirds coaches and pregame warm up began. Surrey, as with most games, was challenged in fielding a lineup of veterans and rookies who didn't have the opportunity to gel as a group. The marching orders were to make sure Surrey played as a team, a single unit, with one focused plan and direction.
The play of the game itself was very even in the balance both teams displayed. The only real separation was the play of the Richmond 10 who had Surrey in tight with a couple of penetrating runs and some deep kicks, as Coach Tait had indicated he may well do. As the game rolled on the edge in penalties went heavily against Surrey and this frustration caused some players to lose focus and start worrying about the referee. Richmond continued forward and took advantage when they could. Surrey fought back with hard defence. The sides were back & forth between the 22s until Richmond broke through and scored. The head to head nature of the game continued until a Richmond line out that was at the least suspect, and a 'no call' at this time resulted in another Richmond try. At the half, the 2 missed converts made the score 10-0 for Richmond. Surrey's arses were chapped, but they were still very much in the game. The message at the half was to stop playing the referee and play harder against Richmond, certainly a task easier said than done.
Both sides regrouped and came out as determined as before, but soon all of that seemed really small. Surrey again wound up taking a penalty. The resulting kick earned the red shirts 3 more points. A short time later Richmond scored another try, which was actually on a Surrey penalty advantage. The referee awarded the try, much to the disapproval of almost all gathered, when an 'occurrence' took place. Beaver Captain Darian Archer & scrum half Brandon Craig took the opportunity to lobby the referee and remind him of the penalty advantage he had indicated originally. This is the moment those present can claim to fame for having been there to witness when a referee changed a call, subsequently calling back the try and allowing Surrey the penalty they should have had earlier. This is on a parallel with Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, & the Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat (look it up). The teams settled into a period of good even play again, until a Richmond run ended with a Richmond player taking offence to something on the tackle or the ensuing ruck and went after a Beaver on the ground. This resulted in a fracas that ended with 2 straight red cards, one for each side. While this kind of behaviour is frowned upon, and understandably so, the Surrey Beavers condemn it adamantly, however it was refreshing to see all 15 Beavers on the field respond to the defence of a team mate in a vulnerable position.
The red cards were even, given the situation. Once again back to the rugby, for about three minutes, until Surrey compounded their situation after another penalty that resulted in a yellow card to Darian Archer. Surrey was down to 13 men and there was a danger that with Richmond at 14 players, anymore discipline would result in the outbreak of Rugby League. Surrey gave up a try while 2 men down, from some solid loose play by Richmond that the boys just couldn't cover. Archer soon rejoined the game with the damage limited to that single 5 pointer. Finally, back to the rugby for....about....three....minutes, until the referee's whistle sounded again. This time Mr. Archer was on the carpet again resulting in another call on a similar play that had Darien's second yellow card and the accumulated red card that followed. Now Surrey was down 2 players for the duration. By this point the Surrey sidelines were beginning to get extremely animated, which surely didn't appear to help matters the rest of the way with the official.
Richmond continued to take advantage of the tilt in the numbers column and maintained ball control. The Beavers finally gave way to a try. The late addition to the starting line up was Ty Robertson who was made Captain after the crimson departure of Darian Archer. Ty refused to quit and scored a last minute try to at least break the shut out. The final whistle blew after the blown kick. 23-5 for Richmond. The boys came off the field frustrated, they were beaten, but not defeated.
Tries: Ty Robertson(1)
SBAA 1st Division Men vs Bayside RFC – Loss 25-11
The starting line ups were similar in nature, in that both teams held back several starters, wanting to gingerly test the waters in this first of many games this year and the first game of back to back matches bookending the Remembrance Day weekend. The play came out with a ferocious pace with hard contact. Spectators could hear the tackles had more force than usual as there was a notable smacking sound when solid contact was made. The early going continued to be evenly fought. It was on about the 10-12 minute mark when Surrey drew first blood, although Bayside was in the hunt very early on. The foot of Brandon 'The Cat' Gatto took advantage of sloppy play by Bayside as the Beavers scrum failed to punch in a few dominated scrums. The first try of the day was put down by the Southsiders after a missed penalty of their own. Surrey’s outside backs were a little too passive on a big second rower running their way, and some soft tackling allowed an easy score for the Sharks. Bayside had a lengthy run of play that marched down the field. However, it seemed every time Bayside pushed into Beaver territory some solid pressure from the defence would thwart any attack. Call it luck, or what but the Beavers fought back Bayside multiple times from inside their 22. Again the Sharks were rewarded when they finally broke through on a defence weary group of Beavers out wide. Going into the match the Beavers knew they were a little outclassed out wide, so the wide convert made it a 10-3 game for Bayside. The Sharks were circling, the waters were chummed. The pressure on the Beavers continued but they refused to break, and just before half ended the Beavers managed their way into Sharks territory and Gatto slotted his second PK of the half.
The second half kicked off with a lot of changes on the Sharks roster, with several starters finally getting in the match. The Beavs however stayed with their 1st half boys. This infusion took the festivities in another direction, as the Sharks find a little more life in the scrum, and their backs played much more aggressively. As if the game wasn't fierce enough, this one was going to 11. It was wet, and some players showed a lack of adjusting to the conditions and knock-ons made for a lot of scrums. A dominant Beaver scrum had the biggest blunder of the day early in the 2nd half when a 5 meter scrum saw the ball pop out of the back and the Sharks 9 kick the ball into the goal area and score. 17-6 made this a 2 score game, and the Beavers frustrations were showing. This soft score gave the Sharks some breathing room. A subsequent penalty kick fell across the crossbar after it ricocheted in off of the upright from the foot of the Bayside kicker about midway through the 2nd half. 20-6 meant that Surrey was going to need 2 converted trys, which was going to be a tall order going forward the way this game was playing out. The road back was going long and tough. The Beavers continued to put mounting pressure on the Sharks in their half, but failed to punch in a try. Some unfortunate calls went their way with a underqualified club TJ not being a reliable resource for the referee. But the biggest issue was that the Beavers constantly took the scrum option on penalties but failed to materialize any points from it. Production of good clean ball, and or keeping the ball in the scrum was a failure. The Beavers continued to figuratively kick at the darkness that was the Sharks until it bled daylight in the form a try from Riley Nagy. As if things couldn't get any worse, the stormy day turned against Surrey, when Brandon Gatto went to kick the convert a gust of wind blew the ball off the tee one step into his approach, an improvised drop goal became his only option with no success. Now at 20-11, a converted try and a penalty kick were the formula for victory. The toll taken by the intense physicality added up until the Shark scrum half was hit hard, knocking him out of the game. The visiting 9 had been very effective on the day and this result was going to be a factor. Surrey did rally and carried the bulk of the play for a large portion of the remainder of the game, but the Bayside defence held. Some ample opportunities were again either knocked away or turned over just when the Beavers needed something to come together. The Beavers put all their effort into going forward, until the Sharks broke through one last time with a big run of play covering 60 meters all resulting in a soft turnover when the Beavers were pressing deep in Sharks territory. The last few minutes of the match were used to send messages for the next game. Each side knew they wanted to finish strong, not let up, and to remind the other side that this is never getting easy.
The 25-11 final score for Bayside sets up the big grudge match at their park on November 17 when Surrey and Bayside renew hostilities with Firsts, Seconds, and Thirds all together in one place.
Tries: Riley Nagy(1)
Penalty Kicks: Brandon Gatto(2)
Just trying to capture the spirit of the thing.......