Story and Images by Erich Eichhorn (ISN)
December 5th, 2015 Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Vikes got involved early, with the help of some stormy weather, and rolled on to defeat the Castaway Wanderers 24-5 to take the BC Rugby Union’s Vancouver Island Men’s Elite division Barnard Cup Championship for the second consecutive year on a blustery Saturday afternoon at Wallace field.
The 2015 Barnard Cup Champions, the UVic Vikes pose for ISN post game with their hardware – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
The Vikes, perhaps the runaway favorite in the regular season standings with 46 points, earned a bye into the island final after an undefeated regular season (9-0), while the Wanderers finished second at 5-4.
Despite the each teams individual record, the previous pair of meetings between these two teams was anything but one sided. UVic, taking both regular season victories, may have been lucky to steal the wins after close 29-23 and 29-20 decisions against a resilient Castaway Wanderers squad.
Isaac Kaay had his sights set on the try before Ian Hickman caught up to him to upend his idea – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
The weather was certain to be a factor in the games outcome for both teams, but it would be how the inclement weather was used by each that appeared to be the difference. After hard fought ground work early in the opening frame by each team, UVic’s head coach Doug Tate would take opportunity on the first three Castaway Wanderer penalties to put full back Fergus Hall’s leg to the test from well out. Hall, wind aided but true to the test, would make good on all three penalty kick attempts to help his team jump out to a 9-0 lead 15 minutes into the game.
In his decision to kick early for points, Tate would comment about Hall’s kicking prowess. “To keep them (CW) off the scoreboard and score the first nine points was super important. He (Hall) doesn’t kick from that range. Some of those kicks were right down the middle. He judged them very well. He had some shoulder injuries last year, but he’s been playing well this year. He’s a dangerous player.”
Fergus Hall helped his team get off on the right foot, scoring 3 consecutive penalty kicks from distance to put his team up 9-0. – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
CW would continue to battle defensively, quick to hold up any advantage by UVic’s outside attack. Fleet-of-foot winger Crosby Stewart, taking a loose ball after a run by teammate Isaac Kaay, would finally find a release to score his first of three trys in the game.
The Castaway Wanderer side would press late in the half offensively, taking advantage of a UVic yellow card. Putting together a successful set of punishing phases to carry TriColors down field and near the try mark to potentially pull close. UVic would make an impressive defensive stand to quash the opportunity and clear the ball away unscathed. The Vikes would carry a 14-0 lead to the end of the first half.
Vikes Casey Reed keeps his chin up with the help of CW’s ball carrier – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
CW’s Keenan Horton side steps Vikes captain James Pitblado for extra yards – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
Working against the wind in the second half, Vike’s Stewart would work his magic twice more, out-running the Castaway Wanderer defense with blazing speed, as he has done with so many opponents during the regular season, putting the game out of reach 24-0.
With a nose for the ball, a humble Stewart would deflect his 3-try success to his teammates post game. “The team lets me score. If I score, it reflects on the team. If they’re doing their jobs to suck them (CW) inside, then I have room outside (to run).
The Wanderers, would deny the Vike’s, if not the win, the shut out with a try by Anton Ngogo, scoring the try with minutes remaining to finish the game 24-5, and giving the UVic Vikes the Barnard Cup.
Guiseppe du Toit pulls down the ball from his inside centre position as CW’s Morgan (right) and Horton (left) look on – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
Post-game Coach Doug Tate would compliment his team’s play, “The guy’s really dug down today. Defensively they were outstanding. That was the best defensive game we played this year. The Castaway Wanderers had a lot of possessions and kept coming. They played smart and had good tactics in the first half. I think we just turned enough balls over to win the game. For some guys, I think it was their best game of the season. It was a real good team win.”
Looking ahead to the second half of the season in January as the CDI (Canadian Direct Insurance) Premier league play begins, infused with mainland competition, Tate is cautiously optimistic about his team’s chances, “ You’re going to see some different players on these teams. There is a lot going on with Rugby Canada (commitments) and our players. It’s the Premier League and some teams will have different skill sets, so it’s a new season.“
Bhiamie Williamson made his physical presence felt on defense and offense as he runs over a CW defender – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
With Uvic still stinging after last’s year’s loss to UBC Thunderbirds in the 2015 CDI final, coach Tate already has his eyes set for the CDI season. “They’re (UBC) in a similar cup final in Vancouver today. UBC is going to be our biggest game of the year. They have a very talented team so I’m hoping we play well against them”.