Playoff race heating up as Castaway Wanderers close in on Meraloma

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Andrew Smith

April 11, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The no.5 Castaway Wanderers RFC are closing in on a semifinal berth and with two games left have three points to cover in order to catch the no. 4 Meraloma Rugby Club in order to qualify for the postseason.

With a pivotal matchup against the ‘Lomas slated for the regular season finale on April 20th, the Castaway Wanderers (5-6-1) will first have to pull off an upset against the streaking no.1 Burnaby Lake Rugby Club (9-3) this Saturday at Windsor Park.

Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League – Sat. April 13th:

Burnaby Lake at Castaway Wanderers (Windsor Park) 2:45pm

James Bay AA at Bayside Sharks (South Surrey Athl Park) 2:45pm

UVic Vikes at Capilano RFC (Klahanie Park) 2:45pm

Meraloma at UBCOB Ravens (Jericho Park) 2:45pm

“We now control our own fate in terms of qualifying for playoffs, which certainly was not the case when the second half of league play started,” said CW head coach Ian Hyde-Lay. “Two wins in our final two games will see us through. However, we appreciate that defeating Burnaby, clearly the best team in the competition at present and ‘Lomas away, will be far from easy.”

Burnaby Lake have won eight straight, including a thorough 60-20 dismantling of reigning Rounsefell Cup champions Capilano RFC (8-4) last weekend. A win or draw for Burnaby this Saturday would most likely see them secure a home semifinal matchup, which would be crucial for a team unproven in the playoffs having been bounced two straight years in the first round.

The Castaway Wanderers, however, are no strangers to the pressures of playoff rugby having lifted the 2011 Rounsefell Cup and last year narrowly falling in the semifinals to eventual champs Capilano. The Oak Bay-based outfit appear to be at full strength and the return of Canadian national team rep Mike Scholz after a lengthy injury layoff has bolstered their efforts at crucial time in the season.

“It was terrific to se Mike Scholz back in action last weekend versus Bayside after 11 months on the sidelines with an injury,” added Hyde-Lay. “Clearly, any team’s success is based to a large degree on the talent of its players. So, any weekend CW has its national squad players available is a huge bonus.”

Key players who have been consistent for CW and have seen them rally back after a disappointing Fall include veterans Clayton Thornber, Matt Buckley, Clayton Daum and Riley Ilnicky.

“Matt has been a tremendous leader and consistently tops the tackle count – not bad for a fly half,” Hyde-Lay added. “We have seen a definite improvement from the first half despite the fact the lineup has been changing on a week in, week out basis. Much credit has to go to Lee Lindwal, Roger Robinson and Noa Molia who have handled the bulk of the coaching/organization in this period.”

CW will look to rely on their second-ranked defence when they host the top scoring offence this weekend. Burnaby currently has a point differential of +255 points after three straight weeks of lopsided wins.

“Burnaby is clearly in outstanding form with an excellent mix of size and speed,” Hyde-Lay added. “The players are very sharp and confident, as is evidenced by three comprehensive wins over James Bay, Meraloma and Capilano in the past month.”

Kickoff at Windsor Park is scheduled for 2:45pm with the Ceili’s Cup First Division sides squaring off at 1:00pm. The Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League semifinals are currently scheduled for May 4th with the Rounsefell Cup Final slated for Saturday, May 11th.

Elsewhere in Premier League competition, no.2 James Bay (8-4) are at the Shark Tank this weekend when they face no. 8 Bayside (2-10) at South Surrey Athletic Park. No.3 Capilano are at home to the no.6 UVic Vikes (5-6-1) who are currently four points back of Meraloma and still in the hunt for a playoff berth. The no. 7 UBCOB Ravens will be at home to no. 4 Meraloma (6-6) when the Vancouver West Side squads scrum down at Jericho Park.

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