With the 2015 season under wraps the Surrey Beavers AA thought it was best to reflect on the last 6 weeks of their 2015 fall union season that happened from the start of November until midway through December. Like any rugby season it was filled with positives and negatives and the season was certainly filled with excitement.
Coach Kevin Taylor viewed the biggest positive of the season as the number of players who showed up to play. “Commitment level is much higher this season” Taylor said, and believes 2016 will bring on more of the same. With 70+ players registered under the Beaver banner this fall it meant the club could accomplish much more on training nights. Coach Taylor noted that November was a month full of bad weather yet the club still had over 30+ players at every training session. It can be a daunting task for a rugby club to keep players motivated in coming out to practice on dark, wet, and cold nights in late November. The club certainly kept things loose on some Tuesday nights with scrimmages and buggers. Taylor believes that the good turnout for training nights is a good indicator that the club is creating a good atmosphere and culture to play rugby in.
Here is the summary of the SBAA men’s fall half and the games they played in November and December.
The U20’s definitely had the most successful fall campaign out of all men’s teams this half. Finishing the regular season with only 2 losses the team seemed ready to go when their playoffs came rolling around in late November. Although the team had several key players fighting injuries like Jeff Kaye (bruised ribs), Alex Minaev (dislocated knee), Riley Nagy (Slipped Disc), Kayden Ladret (sprained ankle), and Brendan Woods (hurt shoulder) the boys still seemed hungry to get a championship. The coaching staff had full confidence that their best game had yet to be played, and that they would rise to the occasion when needed.
With late November comes questionable weather, and the semi-final game had to be pushed back 2 weeks because of frozen field conditions. The bitter cold weather moved the semi-final to December 5 and the weather had turned the field from a frozen tundra to a marshland. Clear cold skies had filled up with dark rain clouds that dropped buckets of water down all day long. The wind was so bitterly cold and strong it made passing or kicking the rugby ball a very big challenge that day. The weather set the stage for what would be a huge grudge match against Burnaby Lake RFC, and although the Beavers beat Burnaby already twice in regular season play it always is a huge challenge to try and defeat the same team three times in a row. Burnaby did a fantastic job adjusting to how the Beavers played in the last two contests and the weather had helped level the playing field as the Beavers struggled to get the ball wide to their finishers on the wing. The game was not the prettiest game of rugby played by any means, and coach Marc Filiatrault had this to say:
The U20 boys did exactly what they had to do to win that semi-final in Burnaby, and although they didn’t play their best game of rugby there is no question in my mind that the boys were not going to leave the field that day with nothing but a win.
The final on the day was Beaver victory with score a 17-5; the players were wet, cold, and satisfied with the win. They knew that this was only the first step in getting a championship and that the weather was only going to get worse and the competition stiffer.
December 12 was the date set for the provincial final and the U20s were as ready as they could be to play United Rugby Club. Some players that were unable to play in the semi-final due to injury were told to suck it up and be ready to go for the championship. Coach Paul Kelly said to the boys on the last training night that even though they had lost against United in both regular season games the coaches knew that if the young Beavs stuck to the game plan that they would win.
Not surprising the weather for the day of the game was another display of torrential down pour and a bitter cold wind. The Beaver faithful however were not distressed and came to watch the young men play in exceptional numbers. Though the game was played in Port Coquitlam with the size of Beaver fans on the sideline you’d thought it was a home game. From the first whistle the U20 boys seemed to have been playing with the edge. They were very determined to prove that even though they had lost twice against United in the regular season they were going to bow down to United. Every Beaver played their heart out and with 2nd half substitutions the Beavers were able to defeat the United Rugby Club 25-10. Even though the rain poured the way the Beaver backs swung the ball wide you’d of thought it was a dry summer day. The forwards played with thunderous pace and had some huge thumps and bumps as they drove through the opposing pack. The club was very proud of what the young guns accomplished with a provincial championship in their first ever U20 season.
Everyone in the rugby club is very excited to see these young Beavers fit into the other teams this upcoming spring season that starts in January. Head coach Kev Taylor believes that most of the boys will fit right in with the 2nd and 3rd grade team. Taylor said if the “U20’s keep coming out it will be very tough making selections in the spring half.” While some players have played ample time at the 3rd, 2nd, and even 1st grade level from the U20 team, the Beavers had been very cautious playing the U20 men as the main goal was to have a successful U20 campaign.
The 3rd grade team ran into some challenging times in November. Tough scheduling and poor weather saw their season end with little to cheer about. The team struggled to get a solid commitment base out from the usual suspects that had supported the team in the previous seasons. The coaches think that it was still the right decision to attempt to field a 3rd grade side in the fall. Taylor “Saw a lot of players that played 3rd grade the last few seasons really progress this year, and stepped up and showed that they are more than capable to play 2nd grade.” Without having a 3rd grade team the club would have lost lots of bodies that were available on practice nights. Unfortunately it seemed on some weekends the club was just a handful of bodies short to send off a 15’s side out on a Saturday while having a U20, 2nd grade, and 1st grade team play. Filiatrault said that “It really does put a stress on your club on the weekends when you have 4 club teams scheduled to play away games at 3 different locations in the Lower Mainland.”
Looking towards the spring season the Beavers should be in a completely different boat with regarding the 3rds. With the U20 league wrapped up until fall of 2016, the U20 players will fill in nicely with the 3rd grade team. “This team is about to get a lot younger, faster, fitter, and more attractive” said Taylor. “I think with the younger guys playing a bigger role in the 3rd grade team we should expect a resurgence of the 3rd grade team, and the older boys attracted back to the team” Taylor went on to say.
With how the Beavers were structured in the fall the 3rd grade team appeared to get the short end of the stick on most weekends, and unfortunately this resulted in most club resources going into the young guns at U20 level, and the 1st and 2nd grade teams.
Paul Kelly who helped coach the U20 team and is Vice President of the club stated that “the club has a long term plan in rejuvenating the 3rd grade team, and the goal is to put a competitive side at the 3rd grade level that has players who can commit to the club and work to make their way up to 2nd and 1st grade.” Paul goes on to say that “Obviously we knew our club would struggle to try and support 4 men’s teams, but I think the spring season will see a huge bounce back from our 3rd division side.”
The 2nd grade side were in familiar territory in November when facing their toughest rivals Abbotsford RFC in their first game back. With the first weekend of games rained out in November against Richmond RFC it was great to have a crack at the Abbotsford RFC; the best club through round robin play. The game opened up with quick scoring from both sides, but settled down quickly into what would be a defensive battle for both sides. Both teams at days end would have to settle for a tie (15-15) and the 2nd grade team was proud to display they could play up to Abbotsford’s strength and skill. It is always encouraging to be able to compete against a club like Abbotsford that is only fielding 2 teams on a Saturday, especially when the Beavers were attempting to field 4 teams at 2 separate fields that day. Who knows what would have happened if the Beavs had all their players at their disposal at one location that day? After the excellent result against Abbotsford came even stiffer competition with the recently relegated Meraloma. From the initial kick off it was clear that the Meraloma 2nd grade team had picked up a ton of experience in playing Premiere clubs earlier that fall, and they played with the edge. Coach Taylor said “the boys played hard that day, but no question we were not the better team; our lack of execution killed us.” That’s the funny thing about club rugby every single game is different. One game you tie the best team in round robin play, and the time out your rugby world falls apart. Like any coach Taylor used this loss to refocus the troops and as a lesson as why everyone needs to come ready to play on Saturdays. Coach Filiatrault agrees with Taylor and said “Players need to understand that there are no easy wins in our league anymore, and that no one should expect to win by just showing up anymore.”
Following the 52-7 loss against Meraloma the men had a little more time to reflect on how they’d execute their game plan, because freezing temperatures pushed the next game back by a week. The last game of the half was played on December 5 and it could potentially go down as the coldest, wettest, and darkest 2nd grade game played in recent history. The Beavs 2nd grade had the opportunity to lay a licking on a Richmond side that was feeling the pain of long fall season. The men certainly got their mojo back against Richmond and won by the score 23-7. The 2nd grade side was able wrap the fall half up with 1-1-1 record with a pending make up match against Langley sometime in 2016.
Coach Taylor is confident that record will only improve with the onslaught of U20 players expected to make consistent appearances in the 2nd grade roster. Taylor thinks that “Our club’s most skilled and fittest players are in our youngest players, and these players will help make our well-seasoned vets much more comfortable on the field.” Arguably with a much more balanced roster in 2016 the Beavs 2nd grade side should be playoff bound.
The 1st Grade team went rolling into November with confidence, and after defeating Bayside in their highest scoring game in nearly 3 seasons, it was sunny ways for the rest of the season. However, the schedule going through November was no easy task for the confident side. Like the 2nd grade side, the first weekend was a bust to have a game as the neither Richmond nor Surrey could host games at their designated fields. Abbotsford was going to be their first opponent of the season, and it turned out to be a tight first 40 minutes. The 1st grade side was even successful in holding onto a lead going into the 2nd half of the game. The game saw both teams making huge runs in open field. The set pieces were balanced both ways, and the game was going to come down to what team could make more tackles and less handling errors. The Beaver showed a lack of finish in the 2nd half of the game, and it was a big disappointment to blow up a lead that became a lopsided loss. Taylor believed “For the most part the game was in our team’s hands and besides some silly penalties and breakdowns on defense the game was ours for the taking.” James Kelly the 1st grade captain thought if it was not for Abbotsford’s standoffs incredible penalty converts from the side line the game would have been much closer, and the players would not have given up with 20 minutes left to play. Needless to say the last 40 was a disappointment, it will always hurt a team blowing up a lead. Kelly believed losing a game in the second half just comes down to experience, and how young we are as a club, the younger guys have to learn that you have to play the full 80 minutes. The men tried to rebound the following week against Meraloma; a team that a few short weeks earlier were playing the best clubs in BC Premiere. The 1st grade side seemed up to the challenge in the first 40 minutes by playing a hard nose styled attack that was doing damage to the Meraloma defensive line. With a 12-5 lead at half the 1st grade side was looking eager to finish them off in the 2nd half. However some of the Beavs were a little worse for wear and had to get subbed off, and were only getting replaced by players that already played a full 80 in the 2nd grade game. A few defensive breakdowns left the Beavers in the same position they were in a week ago in Abbotsford tired and defeated. There was a silver lining found in the loss because Meraloma had beat the Beavers in 2 matches last year by a total of 100 points against, so the Beavers felt a little bit better losing 37-17 this time around.
The Beavers also felt good that the last two games were going to be the toughest teams they would face, and in both games the Beavers not only competed in but were leading going into the 2nd half. Unfortunately for the Beavers as soon as the schedule would allow them to take a possible 2 wins from Langley and then Richmond on back to back weeks they would only get the opportunity to play one opponent before the half wrapped up.
Richmond was going to be the last game of the half and the Beavs were very hungry for a win. Richmond had requested that 1st grade play before 2nd grade and the Beavers agreed to this but the club knew that Richmond were still going to have a lot of fight in them. By no surprise Richmond had almost a full 1st grade line up and played hard, but the Beavers were able to slowly break them down defensively and score some big tries throughout the 1st half. The Beavers jumped up to a 27-5 lead at halftime, and decided to play defense the rest of the way.
The Beavers wrapped up the 1st grade half in Richmond with a 1-2 record and a lot of high hopes in January. If the team keeps moving forward a winning record, and a playoff spot is very possible this spring. “All it will take is the determination and hard work of the entire club to be successful in 2016” said Taylor.
With the club always looking forward there certainly is going to be a focus on improving on preparation and training for all grades. The coaching staff had a meeting at the end of the half that was really good and highlighted that the club knows it has a lot more work it has to do to not only compete but win. Everyone is confident that the club is heading in the right direction at the end of 2015 and that 2016 holds many more opportunities for the club to prove it can once again be great!