Home sweet home, well almost. On Saturday September 14, the Surrey Beavers AA opened their season at home, hallowed old Sullivan Heights. The day featured the Surrey Seconds up to prove themselves against a familiar opposition in Langley RC. The Firsts would have a bye and will have to look forward to their first home game. The action last week against Abbotsford had a few players banged up and knicked, and as Langley was usually very competitive this game was far from a week off for anyone.
SBAA 2nd Division Men vs Langley RC – Loss 42-38
The opening kick off from Langley was allowed to hit the ground, those in attendance let out an audible collective groan. Within the next several moments Langley would gain possession of the ball and begin to eat up real estate. They executed a kick & chase that was gathered in for a try against a somewhat bewildered home side. The straight forward convert was good, Surrey was in a familiar place, down early. 7-0 Langley. This too was an unseen omen, as the day would later show points were going to be plentiful. Surrey wasn't going to be denied for long as, on the resumption of play, they themselves drove down the park in rucking phases with scrum half Brandon Craig eventually finishing in goal with a Surrey try. The convert would be wanting, but the gap narrowed to 7-5 Langley. Surrey took to the front foot again with the pressure getting to Langley they wound up taking a yellow card for unsportsmanlike conduct. The result of the infraction gave the other Brandon on the park, Brandon "The Cat" Gatto, a shot at goal which was popped between the sticks. 8-7 for Surrey, Finally the Beavers were out of the whole they had dug in the first few minutes. The Beavers had momentum and the bulk of ball possession, which is a fantastic combination when playing rugby. Again, fortune would smile when the Beavs back had an overlap and Riley Johnson broke the line with a 40-yard scoring run. The obligatory convert was successful, and Surrey were off to the races, 14-8 for Surrey. Just then the 'races' went 'reverse skate' and Langley stormed back with several phases that were highlighted by a balance of handling between their forwards & backs, with their convert made the match was back to a one-point contest, 15-14 Surrey. The Beavers worked their way back up the pitch and again forced Langley into a penalty and the Gatto effort was worthy. Surrey led 18-14. The Beavs received the subsequent kick off and made poor choices which led to a loss of possession and a frustrating Langley try, that wasn't converted. Just like that, the hard-earned lead was gone, 19-18 for Langley. This match was really showing to be a slug-fest of Rocky Balboa haymakers as Surrey would again drive back to within 10 meters of the Langley try line and were awarded a penalty, Captain Brandon Craig was thinking to take the points when a vocal back line saw an opportunity on an over lap. The ball was spun wide and winger Nathan Hutchinson executed correctly and scored in the corner, which was eerily familiar to a drill regularly run by Coach Randy "Palmer" Palm. The wide angle convert attempt was missed, but Surrey was back on top 23-19. The fans present were noticing a pattern of score - counter score and speculated the last score on the match would win the game. The idea was floated that perhaps it would be the team who was first to interrupt that process by stopping a scoring drive by making a tackle would be the winner on the day. Right on cue Langley worked their way back up the pitch and Surrey took a penalty in their end. A Langley player ran past the ball, to draw the defence within 10 meters, while this opposition member was in an offside position the Langley scrum half tapped the ball and the blind side jail break was on. The try was scored with the referee not seeing or not calling the obvious offside, or perhaps he believed the Langley player didn't affect the play and allowed the play, either way and despite the Surrey protest the try stood. The missed convert felt justified and didn't add salt to the wound. Here was yet another lead change, 24-23 for Langley. The back & forth scoring cycle was broken when Langley managed a second consecutive try, by running a pod play that overwhelmed the Beaver in-tight defensive structure, a classic bit of Langley rugby. Langley had padded their lead but fell short on the convert. The half time break saw the tally at 29-23 for Langley, this was not an insurmountable lead, however a reply needed to come early in the following half.
The first few minutes were still back & forth with no one scoring, until Surrey once more got within striking distance of the Langley goal area. The tenacious Beaver offence again forced Langley to take a penalty near their goal line. Again, scrum half Brandon Craig tapped the ball and went forward, he met heavy resistance at the goal line, but managed to contort and twist into a freeing spin move, which was just enough to find a small hole to touch the ball down in. The convert was timely made by Brandon Gatto and Surrey was back in charge 30-29. The Beaver scoring drive did consume a lot of time and they needed to continue to do that. However, Langley wasn't about to be accommodating by doing exactly that and replying with a converted try of their own and again took the wind out of the Beaver sails, restoring their 6 point lead it was 36-30 for Langley. Surrey did put up a struggle with Brandon Gatto narrowing the gap with a well struck penalty, 36-33 for Langley. Once again Langley had reply, this time with a good penalty kick, that countered the last Beaver score, 39-33 Langley. The Surrey defence was wearing down and some desperation was required. Unfortunately, discipline was also wearing down as the Beavers gave up another shot at goal, which was well made. At 42-33 for Langley the match was a 2-score game, and one of them had to be a try. Surrey continued to pressure and did work their way back in the red zone. Within meters of the staunchly defended Langley goal Brandon Craig popped a chip kick over the line and into the goal area, after a couple of erratic diving efforts from players on both teams, Brandon himself recovered the kick for the much-needed try, this capped off his hat-trick of tries. The convert was missed, and the final whistle blew, leaving things at 42-38 for Langley. The 'no quit' Beavers stood tall in the match, and a character builder was in the books. Surrey proved to themselves that they can play with the better teams and score enough points to win, they need to prove to themselves that they can stop enough points to win. The coaching staff have their work cut out for them.
As there was only one game to write about I will take a self indulgence and opine a bit. It has been noted that just 3 seasons ago we had 75 players at our first practice. It is further noted by those close to the club that in the first 4 practices we didn't get 75 players, all tolled. It is certainly stark in comparison. The reasons for this are many, club defections, players aging out of their playing windows, players going to school, or players having conflicting schedules, and some players taking the first half off. This is where my personal brain wiring begins to start throwing sparks. I understand that there are things in life more important than rugby, I eventually got to that point in my life, but not til I was 30 years old and had played for 15 years, that included 2 BC Championships, and I was burned out. I came back to the club 20 years later as a player which resulted in several injuries that a 50-year-old man just doesn't recover from, like 20-25 year old me did. I had my midlife crisis without having an affair or buying an expensive sports car. (FYI-should have got the car.) I implore anyone who is currently a young person who loves rugby, but maybe isn't fully committed, to reconsider their situation and try to fit in as much rugby as possible, because your rugby window is actually very small. The opportunity to play this game doesn't last forever, time catches up with all of us. If you look at a Beaver coach or any alumni, they would just about give anything to be in your rugby boots again. Boys, fellas, men & ladies don't squander your only chance to play the game and be part of the club, which is bigger than the game itself. Don't let yourselves miss out on literally a once in a lifetime opportunity. Don't let yourself regret the path not taken when you are too old to play. I regret retiring at 30, I could have played a lot longer. I regret being away from the club for 20 years, I'd love a chance to do it all a differently. No matter how I wish it's not going to happen. There are 2 famous quotes I will share, "youth is wasted on the young", and "of all the words of tongue and pen, the saddest of which are, 'what might have been' ". Take it from a broken old man, play - in this case rugby - while you can. Time is short, old age is long.
Just trying to capture the spirit of the thing.......