The snow has melted! The only sign of white on the Beavers’ field on Saturday was the crisp field lines that were beautifully sprayed down the day before. The field now more dirt than grass didn’t scare any of the players away.
With the city going ahead and throwing down fresh grass seed it seemed that everyone is now optimistic that the bad weather is behind us and that spring is just around the corner. An overcast Saturday had the Beavers hosting three teams in all men’s divisions. The Beavs would start the day with the always tough opponent the UBC Braves and then played host to their southern city neighbours Bayside RFC in 1st and 2nd division. For most Beaver players this weekend would be their first piece of rugby action in 2017.
SBAA 3rd Division Men – Loss 66-5
The Thirsty Thirds took the field with a great mix of seasoned and young players on the roster. They were to face a young, fit, well-structured, disciplined, and highly skilled UBC team. As advertised, UBC would play a well-structured style of rugby that is not always present at the 3rd division level. The Beavers at first were happy to take on the Braves and managed early on in the game to defend off countless attacks and contain their own possession. What UBC lacked in ultimate size they made up for with speed and fitness, and very soon it was present that their work rate was beginning to wear down the Beavs. First blood was drawn by UBC around the 7th minute mark and from there on the balance of the game leaned more and more towards UBC. Full credit to the Beavers who were playing a much higher level side then what their 3rd div boys are used to and they really did play hard, but penalty problems was their downfall. Back to back yellow cards did not help the effort as overlaps killed the Beavers throughout the first half. A strong point in the game for the Beavers was their set pieces and scrums were dominated by the Beavers once the Leigh brothers got into the game. The two heavy set front rowers helped stabilize the scrums for the Beavs and they also made some hard runs up the field when the Beavers had possession.
The majority of the attack did belong to UBC who constantly were pushing the pace of play on offense and pressured on defense extremely well. Two Beaver players who had great execution from standoff and scrum half position were Brandon Gatto and Riley Robinson. Both these young men did well to produce good ball and plays when the Beavers had offensive opportunities, they both were very sound on defense too. Solid play from hooker Aaron Viola and also the loose forwards James Stroud, Darian Archer and Mike Duffil who all did a great job in open field and in the set pieces. A lot of UBC tries were scored off well executed open field play, but having said that there still was plenty of heavily contested rugby in this game which did get lost in the final score line. The Beavers were physical and had their moments in the game too, but were definitely outclassed by a more polished opposition side. The Beavers lacked finish in their play, and poor discipline around the tackle area kept the boys going backwards throughout the entire game. Nevertheless, the coaches rolled in as many substitutes as they could and everyone got some excellent playing time out on the field. Thanks again to UBC for making the trip south of the Fraser and giving the lads a wakeup call in their first game of the Spring season.
The Thirsty Thirds will look to bounce back big time next Saturday as they look to host the always challenging Kats team at home.
Tries: Mitch Robertson (1)
Man of the Match: Darian Archer and Mike Duffill.
SBAA 2nd Division Men: Win 34-16
The 2nd div boys were eager to even their league record up this weekend after taking a tough loss a few weeks back from the Kamloops Raiders. The Beavers hadn’t faced a div 2 Bayside team since January 2016 and were encouraged to see Bayside had showed up in large numbers on Saturday. The Sharks struck first in the game and went up 7-0 early in the match, but there was no way the Beavs going to let this impact their play. The game was evenly matched in the first 15 minutes of the game with both sides jockeying for good position and taking chances on offense. The Beavers again were very dominant in the scrums and line outs were working out well for them too. With a solid platform the backs ran with great pace and wingers like Alex Martin were absolutely dominant on the offensive side of the ball. Alex who joined the Beaver ranks late in the Fall season would finish this game off with a hat trick and had his most dominant performance to date. The game started to settle down for the Beavers once stand off Shane Ram realized that he didn’t need to take the ball in by himself every time he got the ball and he started to use his centers more often than not. With Shane getting the ball out wide and crashing his centers the boys really pushed to spread the Sharks out on defense.
The pack did an excellent job throughout the entire game with good pick plays off the rucks, solid mauling, and superb support play. It was night and day compared to the tough loss a few weeks ago against Kamloops when support play was not really present. Led by Iain Small at number eight the boys were dominant on containing possession of their ball. The team was quick to clean up their penalty problems and were punishing in the tackle. Flanker Jack Wallace who is usually known for his outstanding defensive play has shown that he is hugely improving on the offensive side of the game too with excellent ball control and taking the ball hard into contact. Joey Murphy and Ryan Mitchell were solid once again at the lock position taking the ball hard up and doing all the dirty work.
At half time the game was still a very tight contest, but the 2nd half had the Beavers break through like they had done in the Fall season. The Sharks kept pushing early on in the 2nd half but a few tries put down by the Beavers closed out any idea of a comeback by the Sharks. The men were happy to start rolling in the reserve players which also helped keep the tempo of play up and kept momentum in the Beavers’ hands. Some good conversion kicks, and a slotted penalty kick helped everyone get over the hangover from the previous loss when 12 points were left on the board from missed kick attempts. Reserves came in and did well, and it was great to see old faces like Aaron Desnoyers, Mitch Hicks, and Nick Sharp who played rugby League with the club a few years back get back into the game.
The div 2 men look to keep their new winning streak rolling with a kickoff set against the Scribes next Saturday at home. The Beavers haven’t played the Scribes at the 2nd division level in what must be half a decade or so; it should be a great day!
Tries: Alex Martin (3) Ryan Mitchell (1) and Iain Small (1)
Man of the Match: Jack Wallace in the forwards and Alex Martin for the backs.
SBAA 1st Division Men: Loss 32-21
The 1st division men were finally back at it; having not played a game since the Fall Cup Final at the end of November the men looked eager to take the field. Weather in January and early February has pushed many 1st div players to try and stay busy with non-rugby oriented activities as they waited patiently for the season to begin. When they saw the Sharks marked down as their first match of the season many took a deep breath and reminisced at their recent record against them. Since October 2015 the Beavers' 1st division side had gone 5-0 against the Sharks' 1st division side which likely made the Beavers’ southern city brother not to pleased. As a wave of confidence floated over the Beavers’ heads it was clear that the Sharks wanted to take a bite out of the reigning Fall league champs.
The game started off with a few new faces in the Sharks starting 15 and a few missing stars in the Beavers 15, but head to head the teams looked even. Big solid forward packs and skilled, hard running backs spread the field on both ends. The referee blew the whistle and the game was set to go with a thunderous hit from Baysides’ flanker on Captain James Kelly and though James played the ball well off the kickoff the hit certainly set the tone early in the game. The Beavers and Sharks went back and forth for the first 5 minutes testing each others back 3 with neither side getting much accomplished. Finally after the Beavers made their way down into the 22 meter of the Sharks' it was looking like the boys were going to get some points in the game as solid phase play was building up. Pounding the ball up to the 15 meter line an erred pass by the Beavers’ scrum half was picked up and ran back about 70 meters by a Sharks' back. Tackled at Surrey’s 10 meter the ball was quickly played and finally punched in for the first points of the game. Beavs were down 5-0 and felt uneasiness fall over them as this was the first time since the 2016 Spring season the men hadn’t led a game. Unfortunately for the Beavers they’d go on to probably play their most incomplete half of rugby they had played in a very long time. Full credit to the Sharks too for taking advantage of almost every spilt, loose, or erred pass the Beavers made in the first 40 minutes. As soon as the Beavers would get down to the Sharks' end and it looked like they were about to put some good pressure on quickly the ball would be either ran back by a Shark or misplayed by a Beaver. Open field tackling was an issue, as Bayside players weaved their way through an unsteady defensive line. The back 3 were struggling to get any sense of a good counter attack going, and overall very slow decisions were being made. Near the end of the half the men looked like they were maybe going to get rewarded with a try as they kept pushing for the goal line but were being held up by stiff defense. Looking for an offside call that wasn’t coming the boys seemed to have left the 1st half defeated by themselves as they just couldn’t get any points on the board.
Trying to settle everyone down the biggest thing the Beavers had going for them was they were only down by 3 converted tries, so the goal became in the second half cut down the mistakes and score like the team knew they were capable of doing in the past. Scrums were a strong point all game, and the Beavers were absolutely dominant in them. Unfortunately for the forwards they never found themselves deep inside Bayside’s half with a scrum so they couldn’t take advantage of their dominance.
Line outs were a struggle at first as hooker Nick Bruce ended up tearing a tendon in his hand on the first tackle of the game and ended up finally leaving the game knowing he could only help so much with one good hand. As the line outs did improve the men were very strong coming off sets in the first two or three phases. It was stringing plays together after that the Beavs looked weak; they looked like a team that hadn’t played together in a while at a high level. They looked like a team that was waiting for the opposition to give in, but Bayside had no intentions on doing that.
After the Beavs scored first off a scrum steal on Baysides’ five meter line early in the 2nd half some optimism filled the faces of the Beaver ranks, and some started to feel if they could just clean up their own play there was still plenty of time to score some more points. However no more than 3 minutes after the Beavers’ first points of the game a blocked kick from fullback James Bailey in the Beavs’ 22 was taken back for another try for Bayside; that play summed up the day for the home side… the Beavers would make a mistake and Bayside would score. As the game did go on the Beavs did keep pushing and got a few more scores but it really did seem like they let the game slip out of their hands just to early on. There was at least a good half dozen times the Beavers were pressing in the Sharks’ 22 in the 2nd half but they just could not find the goal line. The boys had no problem scoring points in the Fall season but their major downfall in their Spring season opener was absolutely no finish.
As the final whistle blew you could see the sighs of relief fall over the Sharks as they finally defeated a team they had struggled against for the last few seasons, and for the Beavers nothing but disappointment on their faces as they realized the entire team was to blame for that loss. The coaches summed up the loss simply to the players as a great wake up call for a team that looked like they coasted into the start of the Spring season. The 1st div's great results in the Fall season wasn’t because they got lucky, but because they worked hard every single week and this was a great example of what happens if you don’t work harder and prepare better than your opponent does; you will lose. A well deserved win to the Sharks who clearly won the game and definitely wanted it more than the Beavers did.
The boys will get set to get their season going again next weekend as they face to host the Brit Lions. It should be another exciting one for the Beaver faithful!
Tries: James Kelly (1) Chris Atkinson (1) and Riley Johnson (1)
Man of the Match: David Jeffreys in the forwards, and Clay Ross for the backs.