The BC Bears lost their opening match of the Canadian Rugby Championships (CRC) in dramatic fashion, with opponents Prairie Wolfpack grabbing a crucial try in the last second of the game. The match, taking place at Calgary Rugby Park in Alberta, was the first game of a two-match playoff to determine semi-final seeding in the CRC finals in August.
Going in to the match as defending champions, BC had some expectations to live up to. A core of nine players from the 2017 title winning side remained, but coach Jebb Sinclair had drafted in a number of newer faces to the team. In total, BC boasted 13 capped players in their line up while Wolfpack counted 8 of their own. With this much talent between the two sides, the anticipation for an exciting encounter was palpable.
The Bears got off to the quicker start and secured two penalties through the boot of Guiseppe du Toit, but the Wolfpack responded with the first try of the match shortly afterwards. Finding real attacking ability through their wings, the Wolfpack played an expansive game and exploited this strength out wide. They were able to add a further two tries, missing on conversion, to lead 19-6 at the half.
BC were competing well in most other areas of the game, their scrum holding its own and effective work at the breakdown, but this vulnerability to a fast attacking Wolfpack backline was a real issue. This was coupled with the misfortune of losing both hookers Steve Ng and Paul Ahn, as well as Prop Clint Lemkus to injury over the course of the game. However, the shock of the first half galvanised the team and they adapted to the increased pressure in the second half.
Dustin Dobravsky secured the Bears’ first try of the match and the boot of Giuseppe added the conversion as well as another penalty to narrow the gap, 22-16 they trailed the Wolfpack at the three-quarter mark. Jared Douglas showed his impressive speed and skill with a line break from his own half to clinch the Bears’ second try and turn it into a one-point game. The tension was building as the Bears’ confidence grew with each minute. Wolfpack were still playing hard and continued to threaten the BC defence, but they were facing a different team from the first 30mins.
A penalty in the 75th minute gave BC the lead for the first time in the game, 24-22 and the crowd were on the edge of their seats. Wolfpack managed to gain possession in the dying minutes but had to fight all the way up from their own 5m line. An attempted drop goal failed to find its target, but penalty advantage gave them the opportunity to kick for the corner and launch one final offensive from an attacking lineout. Hearts were in mouths from fans on both sides as the game built to this nerve-wracking climax. With just seconds remaining, the Wolfpack No.8 Grant Crowe Managed to crash over the line and steal the win out from under the Bears. The conversion was no good, leaving the final score BC Bears 24 – 27 Prairie Wolfpack. A real roller coaster of a game which, despite coming as a blow to the Bears, was a great opener to the 2018 CRC tournament.
Reflecting on the match, coach Dean Murten commented “It was a big match for us, we headed in with a lot of pressure on our shoulders. It took us a time to get up into top gear but we really got into the swing of things in the second half.” He went on to remark “There was a lot of learning for the boys out there tonight. They adapted very well given the injuries that we suffered and showed they can be a real threat. It was unfortunate to go down by such a gap at the start of the game but we were playing a talented and capable Wolfpack side who were good at capitalising on our errors”.
With the second leg of this fixture just a week away, Friday, August 3 at Klahanie Park in North Vancouver, Murten was quick to look ahead rather than dwell on the night’s defeat. “I’m convinced these boys can turn it around and secure the win on home soil next Friday evening. Spirits are still high and this team will continue to grow and learn through the tournament”. The prospect of playing at home is a big boost for the BC Bears, particularly given that this will be the team’s only home fixture of the tournament.
The narrow points gap from the first leg creates an exciting prospect, as it is the cumulative score over the two matches that will decide the seeding for the two sides in the semi-final in August. So while the BC Bears won’t be repeating last year’s famous clean sweep of the Canadian Rugby Championships, there is still everything to play for when the action comes to North Vancouver.
Tickets for the match will be available on the gate and cost just $10. Children and high school students with valid ID get in free of charge and there will be a bar service provided by Capilano RFC in their clubhouse. As a warm up to the game, the BC U14 Boys’ Representative team will be playing an inter-squad match on the field prior to the 7pm KO time.
BC Bears’ Canadian Rugby Championship Schedule
|Bears 24 – 27 Wolfpack @ Calgary Park, AB||July 27||7pm MDT/6pm PDT|
|Bears vs. Wolfpack @ Klahanie Park, BC||Aug 3||8pm MDT/7pm PDT|
|Bears vs. Ontario Blues/Atlantic Rock (SF)||Aug 23||5pm MDT/4pm PDT|
|3rd Place Playoff||Aug 26||12pm MDT/11am PDT|
|CRC Final||Aug 26||2pm MDT/1pm PDT|
BC Bears’ Squad
1. Noah Barker – James Bay AA (Courtney, BC)
2. Steven NG – James Bay AA (Ottawa, ON)
3. Clint Lemkus – UBC Thunderbirds (Cape Town, SA)
4. Craig McLaughlin – Burnaby Lake RFC (Burnaby, BC)
5. Shea Wakefield – James Bay AA (Victoria, BC)
6. Dustin Dobravsky – Castaway Wanderers RFC (Hanover, Germany)
7. Ollie Nott – Uvic Vikes (Victoria, BC)
8. Luke Campbell – James Bay AA (Victoria, BC)
9. Jordan Sandover-Best – UBCOB Ravens RFC (Abbotsford, BC)
10. Theo Sauder – UBC Thunderbirds (Vancouver, BC)
11. Fraser Hurst – UBC Thunderbirds (Vancouver, BC)
12. Giuseppe DuToit – Uvic Vikes (Victoria, BC)
13. Doug Fraser – Castaway Wanderers RFC (Victoria, BC)
14. Mike Nieuwenhuysen – James Bay AA (Victoria, BC)
15. Josh Thiel – Abbotsford RFC (Abbotsford, BC)
16. Paul Ahn – UBCOB Ravens (Vancouver, BC)
17. John Braddock – Castaway Wanderers RFC (Victoria, BC)
18. Liam Murray – James Bay AA (Langley, BC)
19. Nathan Stewart – Castaway Wanderers RFC (Victoria, BC)
20. Connor McCann – Meralomas Rugby Club (Belleville, ON)
21. James Pitblado – Uvic Vikes (Victoria, BC)
22. Clayton Meeres – James Bay AA (Chilliwack, BC)
23. Jared Douglas – Abbotsford RFC (Abbotsford, BC)
Coach – Dean Murten (Vancouver, BC)
Coach – Jebb Sinclair (Vancouver, BC)
Coach – Scott Manning (Victoria, BC)
Coach – Mario Domingues (Vancouver, BC)
Coach – Angel Coividanes (White Rock, BC)
Manager – Des Lynch (Victoria, BC)
1. Hubert Buydens – Saskatoon Wild Oats / NOLA Gold
2. Gabrial Kajdy – Calgary Canucks
3. Ryan Kotlewski – Calgary Saints / Westshore RFC
4. Conor Turner – Calgary Hornets
5. Riley Fahlman – Regina Champion Grads
6. Jordan Roberts – St. Albert RFC
7. James O’Neill – Calgary Canucks / University of Victoria
8. Grant Crowell – Calgary Rams
9. Mark Discombe – Regina Rouges
10. Gradyn Bowd – Red Deer Titians / University of Victoria
11. Cole Davis – Calgary Saints
12. Nick Blevins – Calgary Hornets
13. Ben LeSage – Calgary Canucks / UBC
14. Jake Bentley – Calgary Canucks
15. Cam Hall Strathcona Druids
16. Tyler Rockwell – Bow Valley
17. Gareth Brown – Nor’Westers
18. Logan Jones – Calgary Canucks
19. Joshua Pritchett – Calgary Rams
20. FJ Bronkhorst – Calgary Canucks
21. Robbie Povey – Calgary Hornets
22. Evan Thomas – LeprechaunTigers
23. Mozac Samson – Calgary Saints / Seattle Seawolves
Head Coach: Col Jeffs
Coaches: Tyler Hawes, Simon Dodd, Jeremy Kyne
Manager: Jim Kazakoff
Asst. Manager: Jo Reinbold
Athletic Therapists: Nicole Ainsworth, Charlotte Van Audenrode, Melisa Petryna