I don't know how traditions get started. I guess if you do something often enough or regularly enough, over time comfort grows and after an undetermined amount of time the "thing" becomes a staple of existence as we know it. Such has been the way, as your Surrey Beavers kicked off the season with the firsts and seconds travelling to Abbotsford for the third consecutive year.
The upcoming season is set to be challenging for the club. The early turn outs for preseason training have been somewhat less than desirable. The Executive was faced with a difficult decision in recognition of the light numbers and committed to the BCRU to field first and second division sides. The four weeks of preseason training sessions had the makings of a solid core with a few returning veterans that had missed a season or two, but the overwhelming volume of players didn't materialize. The internal dynamic is competitive and there are legitimate opportunities for players to move up into the top tier. However, meaningful training hasn't been possible, and the coaching staff believes we are 2-3 weeks behind where they would like to be. Having said all of that we still had 2 games to play, ready or not.
SBAA 2nd Div Men v Abbotsford RFC. – Loss 57-10
The writing was on the wall early at Exhibition Park in Abbotsford when the home team was warming up, and the visitors weren't even at the park yet. The player base featured a variety of athletes, some of who were returning to the club after an absence, or, were the core of the 2nds/3rds pool from last season, with some promising rookies. While there was some continuity, those selected for Saturday's action didn't have many reps together. This game was about the process, not the result.
The early play was tentative on both sides and appeared to find both teams evenly matched. After approximately 10 minutes Surrey took a penalty 45 meters away from their posts in the centre of the pitch. The kick was slotted with plenty of room to spare. No one knew at that point, but notice was served. Surrey could move the ball when in possession, but the pattern of drive, turn over, and defend was far too prevalent. Then the simple errors compounded, with Surrey advancing with the ball in the backs when a kick counter attack was poorly executed, and a pass was picked off for an Abbotsford try. The convert was practically automatic for the skilled Abby kicker. Surrey was looking up from a 10-0 hole. The Beavs formula stayed consistent with, drive, turn over, and defend. There was a couple of breaks when the Seconds applied real pressure. One application of forward momentum resulted in Surrey receiving a penalty on the Abby 5 metre line that resulted in an unfortunate turnover. More good work by the Beavers was finally paid off with a scoring opportunity by last seasons "Rookie of the Year", Matt "Baby Hoss" Eckert, who benefited from some hard forward work in the offensive red zone and scored Surrey's first try of the season. The following convert hit the outside of the upright. Abbotsford had a feeling this wasn't going to be a cakewalk, though the score remained in their favour 10-5. Individuals on the park made good plays and others made mistakes, many did both. Abbotsford went on to follow up with some hard pressure of their own that resulted in 2 more tries, only one of which was converted making the tally 22-5 at the half time rest period.
The second half saw Abby hanging 5 converted tries on the 2nds featuring, 2 scored on Beaver errors and 3 scored consistent forward pressure by the Abbotsford pack. Just before the final whistle Robbie "Sissi" Sissons made a determined run that wasn't going denied, he scored the final points of the match when the convert was short and full time was called. The final score of 57-10 was not indicative of the overall assessment of the game made by the coaching staff. There were many positives on the park, as well as coaching opportunities. Each player was noted to have done something the team can build with.
Tries: Matt Eckert (1) Robert Sisson (1)
SBAA 1st Division Men v Abbotsford RFC – Loss 46-29
Many of the Beaver coaches and players spoke of having a peaked level of anticipation and in the beginning of the match those nerves showed themselves in the form of turnovers from knock ons. Play settled down and Surrey took the edge in field position. In the back & forth action Surrey took a penalty that was kicked for points. The Beavers were down 3-0 before working up a sweat, but soon enough they'd get sweaty when they replied to the penalty kick with a try. David "Burger" Jeffreys heaved his hefty, cleanly shaven, girth across the line after sustained pressure by the forwards. The subsequent convert went wanting, but Surrey now were on the right side of the score 5-3. Abbotsford felt the need for an urgent reply and when next in range, the stand off -Connor, attempted a seldom tried drop goal which didn't miss by much. Abby needn't have worried as a short time later they put together a good run of play where they were able to score their first try. The good convert had Surrey doubled at 10-5. The Beavers were noted to be gathering offside penalties in attempts to stem the now growing Abbotsford tide. When the home team's backs went on a run that dissected the Surrey backs and scored a major. The convert added to the pain and the hole got deeper at 17-5. During the following play, winger Shane "Meow" Ram made a big hit that energized the squad. The forwards went on a ruck spree and Shane himself reaped the dividend with Surrey's second try of the day. Brandon "The Cat" Gatto stepped up and made the convert, bringing the gap back to a one score game at 17-10. Abbotsford wasn't about to lay down, they worked their way back into Beaver territory and their backs broke through a hole in the Beavs back line for a reply try. The convert was again successful, and the damage an opposing kicker can do became apparent, with the score at 24-12 for Abby. This success appeared to buoy Abbotsford and it wasn't long before they made another break in open play and scored another try near half time. The Abby convert was missed, and Surrey saw that Connor was human. The 40-minute tally was at 29-12, which honestly didn't reflect the game, but for mistakes. The half time talk was exclusively given by the day's Captain Paul Kelly, who's message was to eliminate errors, tighten up on defence, and to play a more measured game (I am paraphrasing here for space and content). There was no panic in the side and the coaches knew there really wasn't anything to say that the players didn't already know.
The second half started with balanced play, Surrey began working the ball downfield, when sub Andrew "Lippy" McIntyre received the ball on the close wing and broke a couple of tackles to make a 35 yard run down the sideline, when he was finally corralled he dished off to Giuseppe "Gizz" Lagrutta who broke the second half ice. The follow up kick was missed leaving things at 29-17, bringing things back to a 2 try game. The subsequent Abbotsford kick off hit the ground and the ensuing chaos put the Beavers deep in their end on defence. Soon a knock on would give Abby a 5-meter scrum, and after a series of questionable scrummages the Abbotsford pack wheeled the scrum to their advantage and scored yet another try, with the missed extra points it was now 34-17 Abby. Once again Surrey showed no quit when James Bailey took off with a big run well into Abbotsford turf, the home team couldn't recover, and Paul "Skipper" Kelly touched down the complimentary try. The resulting convert was wide, 34-22 brought things back to a 2 try game. The next score would be crucial for Surrey, and in fact it was, but unfortunately it was Abby who got it with their very good backs. Their unconverted try moved the gap back to 15 points, at 39-22 for Abbotsford. On some days this one step forward, two steps back game play may have caved some teams, but not these Surrey Beavers. Surrey maintained good solid hard play that marched the ball ever closer to the Abby goal line, and Paul Kelly again found ball in hand and scored another Beaver try. The Brandon Gatto convert made the score 39-29 for Abbotsford. Surrey had scratched their way back within 2 scores and continued to press and carry the play. Abby created a turnover which gave them the ball, which they broke back for a dagger of a try, that was converted for a 46-29 final when full time was called after the kick.
I would suggest to all that scoring 29 points against a very good, disciplined Abbotsford side is an indication of success. It will be a matter of the pieces coming together and clogging the holes on defence that will ensure our overall success. As the old idiom reads, "defence wins championships". The coaching staff was positive on the day, seeing more pluses than minuses, they saw a lot of work to do and progress to be made, and the personnel to do it.
The Beavers have a home opener of sorts as the Seconds play Langley at Sullivan Heights on September 14.
Tries: David Jeffreys (1) Shane Ram (1) Giuseppe Lagrutta (1) Paul Kelly (2)
Converts: Brandon Gatto (2)
Just trying to capture the spirit of the thing....