Leap Day leaped up on us this Leap Year, like an untrained puppy. The question would be, what outcome would this quadrennial bonus day hold, when Bayside Sharks RFC came to Sullivan Heights for a rare Beaver home game, the first since December 14, 2019 and the first time since November 16, 2019 that Firsts and Seconds were at home together. Our rugby brother Rusty Johnson had to email the Alumni to remind them that the club still existed.
If the results from January 25 were to be any indication, there was a strong chance that February 29 would be a great day for Surrey, which would also feature the repatriation of the Onion Shield in memory of the Beaver/Shark Paul Iannone. Special guests on the day were Paul’s brothers John and Mark “Rico” Iannone. ‘Rico’ was a long time Beaver First Division star in the early 80’s and an outstanding BC Rep player.
SBAA 2nd Div Men vs Bayside RFC – Win 32-20
Surrey kicked off the day and the game and were immediately pressuring Bayside. That momentum was disturbed by a self-inflicted error that gave away the ball in the attacking zone. Soon enough the Beavers would correct that gaffe with a good stretch of phase play and some broken tackles on a hard run by Aaron Solomonsz who pumped down the opening gambit try. The resulting convert was off the mark, but Surrey led 5-0. Bayside battled back into the Beaver territory and forced them into a penalty on the 15-metre line in front of the posts. The Sharks took the give me points to pull things tighter to 5-3 for Surrey. Beaver John Eadie quick tapped a penalty and bolted 25 metres to see the Sharks take a desperate penalty that Surrey rucked a few phases into a David Poroski try, the Nate Hutchinson nailed the convert. The gap expanded to 12-3 for Surrey. Bayside went to work getting that back, directly. The Sharks moved the ball well and finished their moves with an overlap on the left, by an embarrassing 20 metre margin. Their convert was not successful, but they did narrow the score to 12-8 for Surrey at halftime.
The second half found Surrey adding to their toll with possession from a Bayside territorial kick fielded by Omar Abumuaileq and a counterattack was triggered with a pass to Aaron Solomonsz, who flashed on to Nate Hutchinson who finished the effort with the well executed try. The convert was wanting, but Surrey led 17-8, restoring the 9-point gap. The Beavers continued to press forward again, and the Sharks gave up a scrum on an unforced knock on. The Surrey scrummages were solid all day and the besieged Sharks did whatever they could to disrupt the platform, however their answer was a foul. Beaver scrum half Brandon Craig tapped the indirect kick and darted away on the unsuspecting Sharks to score another Surrey try. The convert would not be successful, but the 22-8 lead for Surrey would provide a bit of a cushion. Minutes later that cushion was deflated by Bayside who weren’t quite dead yet, they rucked on down the highway for a well earned try. The convert was true this time and the deficit was cut to 22-15 for Surrey. The Beavers incurred on Shark turf two more times, only to turnover the ball on the 5-metre line, excruciatingly disappointing for the squad and the gathered faithful. As hard as that was, Surrey kept coming and had a scrum 10 metres from the Bayside line. Eighth-man John Eadie took off with the won ball and ended up offloading to Ryan Mitchell for a well earned try. The convert was short, 27-15 for Surrey was the new mark. Playing with confidence now, the Beavers strung together another series of phases that was capitalized on by Omar Abumuaileq for, yet another Surrey try. The convert would again land short, but 32-15 for Surrey was looking good for the Beavers with time beginning to get short in the match. Bayside mounted a sincere effort to attempt to secure a bonus point for tries. The Sharks broke a few late runs and made a break for their third try. Surrey was not happy with that result and the convert attempt was charged down. The kick wasn’t blocked, but it did miss. 32-20 for Surrey was the final score once full time was blown down. With this result the Seconds closed in on a play off position as a lower seed in the 8-team pool.
SBAA 1st Div Men vs Bayside RFC – Win 32-29
This would be the third meeting between the rival sides, Surrey had won the previous 2 games and therefore the Onion Shield, but the third match had to be played first. Surrey were first to open their scoring account with a convincing try by Riley Johnson when Bayside popped up a box kick from their own goal line. Riley caught the effort and promptly returned it to them for the major score. Perhaps a lesson learned by the Sharks in when NOT to kick an up and under. The convert by Brandon “The Cat” Gatto was good and Surrey was out to the 7-0 lead. Bayside would soon reply with a complimentary try scored on a bad overlap that went unrecognized and uncovered for what seemed an eternity. The Sharks convert failed, the score was 7-5 for Surrey. In a fight the first punch must be thrown, then the counterpunch, and the counter-counterpunch and so on. In this case the counter-counter was fished out by James Bailey who took a kick away from the Bayside fullback and scored it for a try. The convert would go shy, the score advanced to 12-5 for Surrey. The Beavers weren’t done by a long shot, when the Sharks committed a penalty that Brandon Gatto hammered through the uprights, extending the score to 15-5 for Surrey. The Beavers only got hungrier and had a lineout that had the Sharks focusing on Sean Connelly, the tallest Beaver, Paul Kelly came up with possession and scored a try right through an unsuspecting school of Sharks. The fracas with Connelly had Bayside chirping at themselves. Who knew the real test was yet to come when Joe Murphy was yellow carded for not rolling away at the bottom of a ruck, this deliberately slowing down the game when Surrey was on defence. As if that wasn’t challenge enough, Alex Martin was also assessed a yellow card for the same offence just moments later. The Beavers had to play 13 v 15 for a 10-minute period that was punctuated by halftime with Surrey in control at 22-5. While still 2 men short the Beavers rolled on. Surrey drove into Shark territory and Brandon Gatto pumped in a penalty kick to extend the lead to 25-5 with another 6 or 7 minutes to defend before being restored to a full side. Bayside had to respond now or roll over and die. They responded. The Sharks burst runners through the shorthanded Surrey backs and scored a try that they converted, 25-12 for Surrey who needed ball possession to kill the clock and grind out the yellow cards. Ball possession wasn’t in the cards for the Beavs when Bayside again ran through the disadvantaged backs for their third try on the day and their second with Surrey fielding 13 players. The convert was wide, and the score stood at 25-17 with the Sharks smelling blood in the water. This led to the feeding frenzy that saw Bayside scoring a third unanswered try with the Surrey yellow cards now expired and back to 15 players. Their convert was good and closed the gap to a one-point match at 25-24 for Surrey. The Sharks were riding a wave of confident execution and had all the momentum when they hammered in, yet another try on constant pressure and ball retention. The convert was missed, but Bayside would have its first lead of the day, in any division, at any time, with the score at 29-25 for the Sharks. Finally, the Beavers would stop the bleeding and summon the intestinal fortitude to form the desperation that allowed them to work back up the park within 10 metres of the Bayside goal line. Surrey would have a series of scrums that were deliberately spoiled by the Sharks, who had to do anything at all, to attempt to stem the dominant Beaver pack. The interference was so bad, so deliberate, and so poorly executed that the referee finally had to award Surrey a penalty try. Penalty tries include the convert, so 7 points to the Beavers, making the score 32-29 for Surrey, killing the only Bayside lead. The Beavers were then able to run out the clock with ball in hand and didn’t allow the Sharks to threaten in the subsequent final minutes of the match. The final whistle sounded, and Surrey swept the season series at a perfect 3-0. The Beavers gloriously regained the Onion Shield and offered up Bayside a nice raw onion snack as part of the ritual for the losing side. Had Paul “Onion” Iannone been with us on the day he would have been treated to a tight, exciting match that may have conflicted his loyalties, but entertained him thoroughly. Well done Beavs, as they dodged a bullet on the way to their inevitable playoff spot and perhaps a winner takes all confrontation with the Sharks in the playoffs, somewhere.