The Beavers took to their home field on Saturday with the players feeling fresh after returning from the holiday break. The Division 2 men hadn’t played a game since the last weekend of November and the match on Saturday was a make-up game against United that was not played in December. With a good commitment of players at the last few weeks of training but the majority of them still shaking the rust off from having 6 weeks off it was going to be a messy affair.
It’s amazing how much a rugby player can forget after not touching a rugby ball for 3-4 weeks. The simple things that were sorted out at the beginning of the season had to be all revisited again in January, and that can be considered a con with having so much time off between games. A pro would be with all the players well rested and healthy there was no excuse for no one showing a lack of effort on Saturday. Fortunately for what should have been a very soggy day turned out to be perfect rugby weather for the first game day of 2018.
SBAA 2nd Division Men - Win 19-14
Surrey got on the board within the first 5 minutes of the match when outside center Tyler Johnson touched down a try with a great individual effort after some great hands by the backs. Not too long following the first score another try was touched down by Johnson putting the Beavers up 12-0 and thus proving that the Beaver backs were a dangerous group on the day. With an early lead the Beavers were victims of being over confident and their game was getting too passive. Defensively only about 3-4 standout players were making solid defensive tackles with the majority of the team sitting idle and waiting for the United players to attack the gain line and defend from there. United’s pack were definitely focused on taking the ball straight up in attack. Sticking to their bread and butter United slowly pushed back the Beaver defense. Offensively the Beavers started to stall out right with multiple knock-ons, penalties against, and very poorly placed kicks caused countless turnovers. What was looking to be a one-sided game early on had United weather an early onslaught by the Beavs and now waiting for their break on offense. And a break did come for the visitors at about the 15 minute mark when a United winger kicked and chased the ball and then collected the ball up heading towards the goal-line. The winger was then illegally tackled in a last ditch effort to stop the score and a penalty try was awarded to the visiting team. About 5 minutes later another kicked ball in the Beavers’ side of the field bounced off the ground and was tipped forward over a Beaver defender by a United player and collected by that same United player and ran back for a try. As the sideline debated the legality of the play the United kicker put through the convert and put his team up 14-12 who were not only back in the game but holding the lead too.
The sloppy play continued for the Beavers as they struggled to get much going on attack. Some players again finding the touchline instead of cutting back into the middle of the field had stalled some excellent opportunities for the Beavers to get going down the field. The amount of knock-ons started to go uncounted because there were so many happening against the Beavs; most of these knock-ons resulted from players fighting for unnecessary extra yards and not from poor passes. The pack was starting to get punished in the scrum as they couldn’t hold their own when it was their put in. Lineouts were not much better with everyone on a different page with the setup and star Div 2 hooker Dylan Vermette’s clutch throw-in was clearly still on holidays. Skipper Ty Robertson tried to keep everyone settled down but it was only his first game back since September when he received a debilitating injury that had him sit out all of October and November matches. He did an excellent job though leading by example and making his hits count, and he also had some solid running off the base of the scrums and rucks.
The Beavers still were able to get some opportunities moving forward with the ball to try and get back the lead, but unfortunately multiple kicks for points were unsuccessful in the late going of the 1st half. With lineouts not working well for the Beavs it was still the best option for when there was a penalty for the Beavs to go for points. Three shots at goal were missed and the home side went into the 2nd half down by two.
The sporadic offensive play that the Beavs had in the late goings of the 1st half continued into the 2nd as the Beavs found themselves quickly back on the defensive side of the ball. Spoiled ball was quickly countered by United and who were ferocious on attack with their pack. Playing a simple style worked well for their first game back, and United minimized the errors on their side of the ball. A very well defended goal-line stand by the Beavs in the early going of the 2nd half was necessary for the Beavs if they expected to stay in the match. United threw everything they had at the Beavs but they could not cross the line. Trying twice to drive the ball in via their scrum, Surrey was able to turn the ball over and take it back towards United’s goal line. Getting all the way down to United’s 5 meter the Beavs like United were unsuccessful punching the ball over the line. United found some breathing room and play went back to midfield and stayed there for some time. The pressure was starting to mount on the Beavs as they hadn’t done much offensively since their second try early on in the 1st half. Flashes of offensive play were cut down quickly by errors, and it was appearing more and more as if the match was not going to end in the Beavs favor. The penalties against the boys were mounting and Surrey could not get anything right, the team was getting dinged for absolutely any infraction you could think of on both sides of the ball. Putting some spares in the 2nd half helped a little with breathing some new life in the team, and the scrums did settle down a little more once David Jeffreys an experienced loose head prop got in for the Beavs.
Some good options to kick the ball deep were not taken advantage of as the aim of the kicks were short and not in the corners of the field. The Beavs needed to get a break, and they tirelessly tried different ways to move the ball up the field but nothing seemed to be working for them. Finally when new comer Matthaus Smith found some open space out wide decided it would be best to go for a run and sprinted the ball all the way down to United’s 1 yard line. It isn’t entirely clear if Matthaus tripped over his own feet or if it was an amazing defensive play but the 3rd Div regular was stopped short of scoring his first try in 2nd Division. It all ended up working out because veteran center Jeff Bergunder collected the ball from the corner of the field and ran it in over the goal line for a try; even a little more mid-field too making it an easier convert. Brandon Gatto slotted the convert with a perfect strike and put the home team up 19-14. With about 2 minutes left on the clock all the Beavs had to do was collect the ball off the kick off and maintain possession. Step 1 was accomplished with ease, but the players did not comply with step 2 and decided for whatever reason that it made more sense to pass the ball around carelessly. Not surprisingly the ball was turned over quickly and United had a golden opportunity on the Beavs own forty to get moving forward and score. United slowly pounded the ball up the field and some very tense moments with no time left in the match led to United knocking on the Beavs’ goal line. Finally a poached ball by a Beaver player at the breakdown was collected, controlled, and then taken out of touch. The whistle blew, and the game was over, with the upset averted.
It wasn’t a pretty game of rugby at all, but it was awesome to have a game of rugby back at Sullivan Heights Park. It also wasn’t too much of a surprise that the game went the way it did for the first match back in 2018, but clearly the boys need to be more focused and better prepared for their matches coming up.
United struggled to get more than half a dozen players back to the Beaverlodge bit it was to their loss because Chef Andy Lyons made a fantastic feast for everyone that showed up. It’s not often you go to a rugby club and get THREE different choices (Thai chicken curry on fried rice, sweet and sour pork on fried rice, or pasta with meatballs and sausage) for your postgame meal all complimentary of the club. The Beavers host United one more time in the regular season after playing in the Tri-Cities a few weeks from now, so hopefully United gets the memo and shows up with stronger numbers back at the Beaverlodge next time.
Tries: Tyler Johnson (2) Jeff Bergunder (1)
Converts: Brandon Gatto (2)
This Saturday coming up the Beavers are out on the road with the 3rd Div men and 2nd Div women at Thomas Haney taking on the Ridge Meadows Bruins, and the Div 2 men facing the Scribes in Vancouver. 1st Div men get one more weekend off until the 2nd half of their season officially starts on Saturday, Feb 3.