After 8 months of playing rugby in the rain, shine and mud the day had finally come for the BC Rugby Finals! The Beavers were once again in the Division 1 Men final and this time looking for redemption after losing a nail biter last season to Abbotsford RFC. The club’s main goal since pre-season last August was to make it back to the BC Finals, and with that accomplished all that was left to do was win the final game.
Matched up against the Nanaimo Hornets the Beavers were excited to play against a team that has had a very successful season in the Island comp. Nanaimo had proven that they were a solid team this season as they won their respected competition in the Fall and Spring. However the Beavers have arguably been playing their best rugby to date and in no way were going to back down and settle for anything but a win on Saturday. With kickoff set at 12:30 PM the sun was out and the stadium was swarmed by Beaver fans that definitely let their presence be known. The men that took the field were ready to put on a show of skill, speed, and physicality as they played not only for a championship but for Mainland pride!
SBAA 1st Division Men vs. Nanaimo Rugby Club BC Championship Game – Win 41 - 10
The game started off with some big hits being exchanged both ways as the Hornets and Beavers were both trying to settle into the game. The first scrum set the tone for the Beavers as they absolutely dominated the Hornets’ pack driving them back and forcing the referee to blow the whistle. The scrum has been a huge weapon for the boys this season and teams have regretted having to pack down against the Beavs. The boys worked hard on defense too and were constantly putting pressure on the Hornet players at the tackle. The back row was eager to poach as much ball as they could at the rucks and good solid hits constantly isolated Nanaimo players. Nanaimo had some big boys on their team but they often ran up the field alone and solid gang tackles by the Beavs left ample opportunity to poach ball. On many occasions the boys were successful on getting ball or the referee called the Hornets on not releasing the ball.
Great pressure by the Beavs on defense and plenty of hard running early on in the game led to the first score of the day. Off some scramble play deep in the Hornets’ territory the Beavs punished Nanaimo with continuous forward play. Pounding the ball up with quick picks or wide passes off the breakdown the forwards sucked in the defense and then with the ball sent out wide for winger Alex Martin running it in. With the thunderous roars from the beer garden from the Beaver faithful the boys got off to a great start. Up by 5 the Beavers still had plenty of work to do and it didn’t take long for the Beavs to find the try line again. After some great phase play by the Hornets they found themselves out wide where they hit a wall of defense and an isolated Hornet player left the ball at his feet with no support around him. The ball was quickly picked up by Clay Ross at mid field and he was able to run it all the way down the sideline for a beautiful score in the corner. Now 10-0 for the Beavs and it still early minutes in the game Surrey had set the tone.
Nanaimo did their best to answer back, and did an excellent job on putting pressure on the Beavs in their own half. However the Island boys failed on a couple attempts for points specifically with penalty kicks and this kept their team off the scoreboard. The Beavers were very successful on escaping pressure in their half of the field. Whether it was when they were defending an attack from the Hornets or just trying to get the ball out of their own 22 the boys always found a way to do it. Great kicks for territory from Beaton relieved pressure from the Hornets and the Beavs constantly had 2 or 3 players running up the field to put pressure on Nanaimo’s counter attack. The Beavers were also finding success out wide with speedster Riley Johnson and the very elusive Robert Jones at full back. Countering this was big man Alex Martin on the other wing who did his best to pound the ball up the field. The forwards also did an excellent job working within their pods on getting the ball up the field. Hard yards earned by the pack drew in plenty of Hornet defenders. The Beavs scrum is a fit determined group who aren’t shy about doing the gritty work all game long. Keeping up the pressure off scrums an erred pass by Nanaimo’s 10 was quickly picked up and ran in by outside center Reid Gordon. Following the good convert the Beavers went into halftime up 24-0.
A quick chat at half by the coaching staff was followed up by the men wanting to get right back to work and keep the momentum going in their direction. It was a dominant 1st half and the score line reflected that. The boys took the field to play the last 40 minutes of their respectable season.
The Beavs kept the pressure up in Nanaimo’s half and a turned over ball by the Hornets was quickly worked in by the Beavers as some quick ball handling got the ball to Clay Ross and he walked in his 2nd try of the game. 29-0 the Hornets decided it was their turn to do some damage. Nanaimo worked the Beavers’ defensive line with some big crashes and finally the Hornets found an opening out wide where there was a few poor tackle attempts and a try was touched down by the Island side. Quickly forgetting that they got scored on the Beavs would not allow a comeback in the 2nd half by the Hornets. They kept playing their game and for the most part were smothering on defense. Again causing the Hornets to turnover ball in the rucks the Beavers were quick to recycle the ball out wide where they had the advantage. Another turned over ball by Paul Kelly in the 2nd half set up a nicely kicked ball that was collected on the wing by Riley Johnson who then darted past 3 defenders to touch it down for a try. Not done yet the Beavers worked hard again to get the ball deep in Nanaimo’s half and this time big 2nd rower Sean Connelly punched the ball in for a try. It was a great moment for the big man as his play reflected what the forwards are all about; do the gritty work around the field and let the backs make the highlight reel plays and score tries. As the clock continued to count down head coach Kevin Taylor started to roll in his substitutes. And even though the starting 15 was more than happy to keep playing it was important to reward as many players as possible and give them all the opportunity to play in a BC Final.
As the subs came in the level of play still stayed very high and the Beavers kept putting the pressure on the Hornets. Even with finishing the game down a man the boys still stayed strong on defense and only allowed Nanaimo to step over the try line one last time.
As the final whistle blew the player’s arms were raised into the air as everyone cheered! The boys played an outstanding game that proved that the Beavers were the class of the league this season! The game was a dominant effort by the Beavers that were determined from the kickoff to win. Nanaimo definitely showed that they are still a fabulous team and full credit to their side on playing a full 80 minutes. The Beavers on the day were definitely the better side, but Nanaimo should be proud of the team they had too and getting all the way to the finals.
Tries: Jamie Beaton (1) Clay Ross (2) Reid Gordon (1) Riley Johnson (1) Alex Martin (1) Sean Connelly (1)
Man of the Match: The best forward was the Beaver PACK and the best back was the Beaver BACKLINE
Where do the Beavers go from here? Did the stars align for them only this season or can the club do it all again next season? The club believed that it was hard work and dedication by a group of players and coaches that got the job done this season. And to be honest the men would love to be back in the show next season but club rugby is a funny thing because players move on, injuries happen, and priorities get shifted. Having said all that this rugby club has a lot of depth at this time and the club plans on building off the success they had this season and moving forward next season. The Beavs senior men’s program is very strong right now and is successfully fielding 3 competitive teams. The top 2 teams being top contenders in their comp. The main goal is always to win at every level the club fields a team and that will likely be the goal next season too. The women's team is something very new to the Beavers but if they can adapt the way they managed their men’s program into how they operate the women's team that program should get a major boost and have a bright future.
It was far from a perfect game on Saturday by the Beavers, and this reflected on the far from perfect season the club had. There was slip ups throughout the Spring season especially early on, and the biggest thing the men did was they learned from those mistakes and moved beyond them. The Beavers should be very proud of what they accomplished this season and winning the Div 1 Championship was certainly their crowning achievement! Thank you to every player that played their hearts out and worked hard each week, the supporters that stood in the rain and shine, the family and friends that accepted that Saturday is for rugby, the coaching staff for working their butts off, our trainer Robin Ferguson who took care of each player, and our outstanding club Executive that fully supported the rugby program that the entire club has built up.
Until next season!