The Beavers actively have 3 men’s teams playing in 2016. With the regular season wrapping up in a few weeks and playoffs starting in mid April it seemed like a good time to give an update on how each division is doing. There is also a positive note from head coach Kevin Taylor at the end of the article that everyone should enjoy reading.
Third Division - Thirsty Thirds No Longer -1-5-0
2016 has seen the Beavers field a much different looking 3rd division side from the recent past. The U20 players from last half's provincial championship team have filled in very nicely into the 3rd division roster. The team still has some “old boys” on it that can still play solid rugby, but for the most part the team is very young. The Beavers alumni have noticed a dramatic change to the team's style of play and have said that the team looks a lot faster, fitter, and way “more attractive” to watch play. The club’s third division players have fully committed to be at both Tuesday and Thursday night practices, and as a result there is now pressure on the 2nd division players to not miss training otherwise they could potentially lose their spot. It may not seem like a big deal to some clubs getting their 3rd division players to practice, but in the past the Beavs norm was attempting to round up enough players on Friday night to try and field a team on Saturday morning. The team in the recent past was much more focused on the social aspects of club rugby. This half has seen the Beavers play every single game on the schedule and even pick up an exhibition game when possible. This was a dramatic change from past seasons that had the club defaulting most games that where away. The team presently averages about 20-21 players on the roster each week. The club has won a game against SFU RFC and has lost some very tough away games; including games against the Brit Lions RFC, Capilano RFC, Chilliwack RFC, and Burnaby Lake RFC. Obviously for being in 3rd division B there are still plenty of quality and respected rugby clubs in the competition. Away games are always challenging to play for the Beavers in 3rds because the rest of the Beavers are usually off at another location playing 1st & 2nd division games. Most teams that play thirds in the Beavers league do not field a team in the Okanagan Mainland League. These challenging circumstance have been excellent for our young players who are excelling at playing against more experienced sides from clubs that have premiere players in their respected club.
The Beavers recently played very well in an exhibition game against Burnaby Lake RFC on March 5, and even though some 2nd division players made it out on the field for the most part it was the 3rd division side that led the way. From all accounts that game could have been a second division match as both sides featured some very fit and skilled players for a 3rd div game. The club expects the 3rds to continue to improve as a result of the consistent turn out to practices and with additions of more quality players like the Halicki brothers, and the 6’4” 280 lb 23 year old Quentin Flack joining the Beaver ranks. The 3rds most recently lost 30-10 to the top side in the league Burnaby Lake RFC over the weekend in a regular season match. The score at half was a narrow 5-3 lead for Burnaby. The opposition showed they had a little more experience and adjusted brilliantly to the Beavers stubborn defense in the 2nd half and they took full advantage of missed tackles and spreading the ball out wide. The 3rds still did an excellent job taking it to Burnaby for most of the game and were a little unlucky to have not put up more points. The game was well taken in by the Beaver faithful and even though the boys lost by 20 points the crowd was pleased to see many future 1st & 2nd division starters amongst the 3rd division ranks.
Even this late into the club season coaches are still getting inquiries from new players wanting to play for the Beavers. The club even had two South Africans just last week come out to training to check out what the rugby club was all about. There certainly has been and still are some growing pains with getting such a young group of men out on the field. Even though the record has not been favorably for the Beavers 3rd div side it has still been a huge accomplishment to see the club putting out a competitive team each and every weekend.
Everyone in the club seems to agree that the 3rd division team is no longer a social side that fits the tag line “Thirsty Thirds” but instead a starting point for our players to transform into 1st and 2nd division regulars.
2nd Division - 6-3-1
The 2nd division side continued on with the second half after the winter break with their first game against Meraloma and the result was similar to the match up they had in the first half. The 2nds lost to the tune of 43-12 but did keep the score line rather tight for the first 60 minutes, and the game was a lot closer than what the final score indicated. After that tough game the 2nd division team has been putting up solid performances and are currently holding down 3rd place in the league standings. Coach Kevin Taylor believes that the team is getting better every week, and is benefiting from the depth the club has at the present time. Like any club this time of the season the club has seen several players become unavailable because of injuries, and this late into the regular season a club is only as good as the size of it’s bench. Fortunately the club has several solid second half players available to come off the bench as impact players and close out games. It seems that as soon as a player goes down the coaches have 2 or 3 options to choose from when replacing that injured player.
The 2nd grade players are certainly playing with more consistency even though there is about 3-4 different players rolling into line up almost weekly. Taylor also believes that more players are taking more active roles on the field were as before they would have played more of a supporting role. These player that are stepping up during the games has dramatically changed the level of confidence the 2nd div players have in eachother, and every game usually has 4 or 5 different point scorers.
The intensity at practices and the tempo the 2nd div side is playing is getting much faster and the execution is much more crisp. Most recently the 2nd division side lost 48-12 to Abbotsford RFC. The game was much closer than that score indicated, but Abby definitely played like a side that deserves to be at the top of the standings. Abby side was a bit bigger of a side than the Beavers are used to seeing at the breakdown, but the Beavs actually had an edge in the set pieces. Abby broke the 2nds near the end of the game and scored a few walk in tries at the end. Some key starters for the Beavs were missing from the line up against Abby but hopefully the club can get some redemption against them in the playoffs when it all matters.
The 2nd division’s oldest player presently is inside center Justin Ralph at age 25. Like the 3rd division side the average age is under 22. This bodes well for the Beavers future and the club is very happy to see the 2nd division team in a playoff spot once again. The Beavers have had their 2nd division team qualify for playoffs consistently since the 2010-2011 season and this year unless something dramatically changes in the league standings the Beavs will add to that playoff streak.
1st Grade – 7-3-0
Like the 2nd division side the 1st division side started the second half after the break against Meraloma which was not exactly what was expected considering the club had already played them in November and still had not faced several other clubs that are in the league. The 1st division team was feeling confident going into the game believing that they let the first match against the Lomas slip away from them. Leading at half the Beavers were unable to finish the final 20 minutes of that first game and ended up losing it. It started the Beavers 0-2 on the season, and many doubters started lining up thinking this team doesn’t have much to offer this season. When arriving at Connaught Park January 23 you got the feeling that the Lomas really believed it was going to be business as usual against the Beavers. However this time around the Beavers had a fresher lineup with the addition of backrower Trevor Sear who just got back from playing club rugby in Germany subbing into the pack, and star outside center Clay Ross starting in the backline for the first time in over a year. The coaches believed that this was the clubs most complete roster since the 2012 provincial championship team. The 1st division side came out with a huge upset win against the Lomas to the tune of 34-17 and made a little Beaver history in winning that game in the Lomas back yard for the first time in decades.
Including the win on December 5th against Richmond the 1st division side went on a 7 game win streak that had been just recently snapped. After a lot of hard work the 1st division side now sits comfortably in a playoff spot in second place. These results are due to the commitment of the players working hard at each and every training session. The club has really learned how important it is to have proper team runs against each other which has really helped in the execution that is happening on the field. The players are also enjoying training session much more since the men’s coaching change from the last several season that saw morale at an all time low. The club’s 2nd and 3rd division players have applied tons of pressure on the 1st division starters to work hard and execute their roles otherwise they risk having their roster spots taken.
Most recently as mentioned the 1st division side had their win streak ended by Abbotsford RFC in a defensive battle between the two best offensive teams in the Okanagan Spring league. The Beavs led at half 13-12 and the second half was hard fought for every inch, but Abby managed a penalty kick and late converted try with about 10 minutes left in the game. The Beavers played plenty in Abby’s half but squandered their opportunities with silly penalties around the ruck and going into contact. A very well deserved 22-13 win for Abbotsford RFC and they look like the favourite to make it to the provincial finals.
The loss does come at a good time for the Beavers because it is good for the players to understand that they need to improve in a few areas that were not exploited by other teams during their long winning streak. Coach Taylor told the 1st division side “Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn” and that is exactly what the 1st division side will do moving towards the playoffs. This loss should keep the boys hungry and motivated to work harder to try and get even better for the remainder of the season. If the 1st division side keeps working hard like they have been they will win the games that count the most in late April in the playoffs, and motivate the rest of the men’s teams to do the same.
After having such a positive turn around from last season coach Taylor has this to say:
This season has made all the years and time I have put into this club worth it. It is nice to be part of the kind of success the club is seeing in the men’s program presently. The club is looking the way it did when I first became a member in the late 70’s, and I am very proud of this club and what we have achieved after the set back of the seasons since our 2012 championship. I am even more proud of the fact that we have been able to overcome this adversity by working together. My philosophy has evolved over the last 10-12 years from being a head coach that had the only voice in the locker room and believing that there should only be one voice. People have argued that a coach needs to let the players know who’s in charge, but I now 100% dis-agree with that philosophy.
I believe you need to have several voices to coach a club as special as this one, and it is important to know that there is more than one way to do things. A coach must be humble and should not let egos or personal relationships get in the way of success. It is important to listen to your players input and empower them. Let them have responsibility because it’s their team. You need to listen to the players because I believe they will come up with the solutions that work for them. It is easy to have everyone buy in when everyone is on the same page, and the only way to get everyone on the same page is being open by discussing team issues freely.
At first a lot of veteran players approached me about their fears about having player coaches and to “many cooks in the kitchen” and this was really apparent when the club was not getting the results it wanted earlier in the season. But once the wins started happening week after week, getting fifty plus players attending training, having more new players join and older ones return, I think it’s safe to say there is no real concern about how things are operating presently with the men’s program.