The best day of April was reserved for the first round of the 2nd Division playoffs as Surrey hosted Burnaby Lake Buffaloes RFC. The heavily depleted 3rd & 2nd Division player pool made selections that much easier as it was a matter of who was left and were they available to play on Easter weekend.
QF GAME: SBAA 2nd Div Men vs Burnaby Lake RFC - Win 38-13
The pregame festivities were hopefully not going to be indicative of the outcome, when Burnaby was full into their warm up 20 minutes before Surrey had all their players at the park. If the game was going to be decided by organization and structure the Beavs were going to be in tough, but of course the game would have to be played in regulation. The early going would be along that line when Surrey missed an early penalty kick and would soon give up the first try of the match when the Buffs made a 60-meter back run on an overlap, immediately after the young Beaver winger was warned about that possibility by the coaching staff. Thankfully the convert was missed, but the 8-point swing (missing 3 & giving up 5) hurt. Instead of being up 3-0, Surrey was down 5-0. It wasn't long after that before Brandon "El" Gatto was able to capitalize on a Burnaby penalty and crack the goose egg from 30 yards. 5-3 Burnaby. Surrey would attempt to go ahead on another moment of poor discipline by the Buffaloes, which was taking on a pattern. The kick soundly collided with the upright and fell shy. The Beavers were now forcing defensive pressure on Burnaby, which broke when Brandon Craig made an elusive run, ducking tackles and making people miss, for 25 yards, breaking through for the first Surrey try. Gatto's convert finally gave the home team a lead, 10-5. As if to announce they weren't quite dead yet, Burnaby stormed back with a try of their own on a 20-meter driving maul that made it to the wing. The long-angled kick was missed, and the sides were at stalemate, 10-10. The Beavers continued to pressure the Buffaloes and blocked 2 kicks by former Beaver, now Buffalo, Aaron Solomonsz. Brandon Gatto would step up before the half to hit one more penalty kick from 30 meters. It was apparent Burnaby was struggling and making costly mistakes. 13-10 for Surrey at the water break.
At the beginning of the second half things remained close, Burnaby moved a 6'6" 270 pounder to 8th man, he was a difficult man to take down. Brandon Gatto at the Surrey 10 would make solid contact and hold on to a leg until the big man fell, a play he was seen to make on at least 5 occasions and he would be a co-tackler on a few more occasions. The entire Surrey line up played hard unselfish defense all day. Many players made bone jarring stops, everyone stepped up. A Beaver ramble was stopped by Burnaby and they managed a steal. The diminutive Buffalo 13 made a big slashing run on the Surrey backs and was a very dangerous looking 7 meters from the goal line when he was tackled and knocked on. A crisis was averted, only to rear its head in another form when Joe Murphy was assessed a yellow card for an inadvertent high tackle. The resulting kick from penalty was good for Burnaby and drew the sides even at 13-13. Murphy would return without any more damage done. Once again, the Buffs were penalized in their end with the Beavs pressing. The 26-meter kick was good putting Surrey back on top, 16-13. It became obvious to those in attendance that the Buffaloes were tiring and becoming further undisciplined as they would take a yellow card for a high tackle. It may have also been a game management technic to keep the agro and the tackles down on the part of the referee. Surrey marched down field on a series of Burnaby penalties from tap & goes, Aaron Desnoyers would touch down the ball from another series of rucks. The convert was just off line as the gap began to open. 21-13 Surrey. Rookie front row Matt Eckert was solid in his playoff debut, he made many tackles, ran effectively, and made good decisions in contact. A notable fade in the Burnaby work rate was detected and Surrey took advantage. The Beaver backs were sustaining the ball and swung it out wide starting from their own 22, Shane Ram and Nate Hutchinson made nice runs with good passes that set up Robbie Sisson to bust the Buffalo backs and slam down a try. The angled kick was again narrowly pushed right, 26-13 for Surrey. The Beavs were on a roll when an 8th man pick was peeled off the rear of the scrum with support by Ryan Mitchell who finished with the major score. Gatto hit the convert. The points stood at 33-13 for Surrey with some Beaver class showing and time running out of Burnaby. The 'coup de gras' was inflicted by Joe Murphy who was the benefactor of some hard grinding rucking as he scored the final try of the match, Gatto's convert was again good 40-13 was the final score of a game that was up for grabs until the last 20 minutes. Every Beaver on the pitch played the equivalent of 20 pounds over their weight class, the hardnosed defending and tackling was inspirational and the unselfish work on offence allowed the 2nds to play to their potential. With one round of playoff success in hand Surrey will be on the road to Langley to tangle with a Langley RFC, who mauled the 2nds unmercifully back on March 16, this will have that big get even grudge match feel in the 2nd Division BC semifinal. The 1st Division will be in action in a BC semifinal of their own against Abbotsford RFC, in Abby on April 27.
Tries: Brandon Craig(1) Aaron Desnoyers(1) Robbie Sisson(1) Ryan Mitchell(1) Joey Murphy(1)
Converts: Brandon Gatto(3)
Penalty Kicks: Brandon Gatto(3)
Just trying to capture the spirit of the thing.....