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Wolfpack Keeps Away Blues

Sunday Sep 20, 2009 in Elite Level Rugby NA4 - ARC

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A close match fuelled by the countdown of a clock had the Prairie Wolf Pack dominate home team Ontario Blues during the Americas Rugby Championship on Fletcher’s Field in Markham, Ontario.

Replacing the North America 4, this new tournament features six teams, including four provincial sides from Canada joined by the Argentina Jaguars and the U.S.A. ‘A’. The Championship unites North and South America in high-level rugby games will promote the growth of the players.

The match started off with the Blues making big waves against the grey-jersey Wolf Pack who held steady despite the constant pressure and slowly took dominance.

The Prairie team put up a hard defense in the first half, taking control of the ball by out-maneuvering their opposition and using quick hands to make headway into the Blues territory.

Mistakes by the Blues gave the visiting team open opportunities for penalty kicks that scrum half Stephen Woodward used to their advantage. Woodward placed several kicks between the posts to put the Prairies in the lead.

“Kicks can be the make or break of the game, especially at the end of the game,” said Wolf Pack Head Coach Andy Pocock. “One conversion makes a big difference.”

It was with five minutes left in the first when Ontarian Josh Green wormed his way through the grey wall to get the first try of the game for either team, putting the score at 10-9.

The second half had the Wolf Pack come out strong, quickly gaining control of the ball to enter their opposition’s end zone. A well-played side-step by Prairie winger Ryan Smith had him evade the grasping hands of the home team, before flicking the ball into the awaiting hands of blind-side flanker Jeremy Kyne.

Kyne managed to plough through the Blues’ defenses to get a try and put the Wolf Pack in the lead again 14-10.

Despite a calculated kick into the Prairie’s zone and numerous drives, Ontario was held at bay by a solid grey-jersey resistance. An opportunity for an Ontario try from a strong push was waved away due to a penalty call by the referee.

Numerous exchanges between the two teams came from fumbled balls and unnecessary penalties. The Wolf Pack drove in hard at the halfway mark of the second, hoping to overpower the Blues to get another try but was swiftly denied.

Strong rucks by the Blues managed to crack through the grey-jersey’s rock, making way for another penalty kick opportunity for winger Steve Piatek, leaving the visiting team with a one-point lead.

Blues Head Coach Les Gilson said, “It was a one-point game and we happened to make one more mistake than they did… We made enough mistakes as a team but they took advantage of their opportunities that we should’ve never given them as a team.”

As time came down to the wire, each team began to feel the pressure with fumbled balls and misplays. A deep drive by Ontarian David Nielson ended with a rushed pass to the opposing team’s arms, while several dropped balls by the Prairies were converted into rucks.  

The Wolf Pack fought to stay on top, while the Blues pushed to get a try or kick. In the end, the match concluded with the Wolf Pack’s victory at 14-13.

The Championship is going great, said Pocock. “We knew Ontario would be difficult to play. We though we may be able to find a few holes if we played wider. We knew that it would be difficult but we did find a win here.”

The Blues and Wolf Pack had young players from each team came out strong, revealing long hours of practice and dedication to the sport. Skills and teamwork are continually developing, and the future of all participants looks bright.

“The Championship is doing exactly what it’s intended for,” praised Gilson. “Our average age is 24, and the last two games we’ve played has showed a lot of growth from the younger players as they come out and play at this level - both from a rugby standpoint and a physical standpoint. They have the chance to realize what it takes to go up into the international standings.”

Rock vs. Ontario next weekend at Fletchers Field, while B.C. hosts Prairie Wolf Pack in Vancouver

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