Rowers battle to victory at John Oliver Park
Photos: Malin Jordan
|Third div Bowl champs.|
The Rowers’ final match for the fall season got going one minute in when the Brits hit a three from inside the Rowers 22-metre line. Then, only a minute later, the Brits’ flanker, Derek “Doddster” Dodd, smashed heads with Travis Sheppard, playing at hook, knocking Sheppard out of the game with a concussion. It was early, but it seemed like it might be a long day for the VRC.
|Travis Sheppard leaves the field after suffering a concussion Nov. 23.|
But the Rowers’ forward pack settled in and played tough at the ensuing breakdowns, despite some aggressive and exceptional rucking by the Brit Lions.
About 7 minutes in, the Rowers built on that rucking and ball retention when Steve MacGillivray darted for a 20-metre power run, beating three defenders. MacGillivray offloaded to Tom Power at the 6-metre line and Power dove across the line for five points. The convert was missed and the score was 5-3.
But the Brits were able to capitalize on a Rowing Club turnover after they punted a kick-and-chase ball inside the Red and White’s five-metre line. Despite getting back to recover the ball, the Rowers lost the pill in contact and the Brits’ outside centre pounced on the prize, scampering a hard 10 metres for paydirt. After adding the convert, the VRC was down 10-5.
The Rowers’ dominance in the scrums continued for the rest of the half (and game) and with about 10 minutes to play in the opening frame, the squad created a turnover ball by driving back a Brit Lions’ scrum. MacGillivray took a subsequent pop pass from Ben James and touched it down under the posts. With the convert, the squad was back on top 12-10.
As the second half opened, the Rowers continued their strong defensive play and scrum dominance. They imposed two run-over scrums in a row on the Brit Lions, creating turnover ball that was birthed at their forwards’ feet. And surprise forward Brandon Kaye offered some galloping, power runs down the pitch.
The Rowers were playing well, but they allowed little mental mistakes to creep in when they had the ball – though their defensive play was irreproachable. Whenever the squad ran with the ball, they seemed to knock it on, or lose it in contact – either by running in too high, or not going to deck soon enough. However, the dominance in the scrums prevented the opposition from converting these mistakes into precious points.
The Brit Lions fought back for the next ten minutes and exacted intense pressure. The Delta squad was running hard and had the Rowers on the back foot. After the Rowers gave up a penalty near their own 10-metre line, a big Brits’ kick looked like it would give them a lineout near the VRC five-metre line.
But Nathan Tough launched himself into the sky at the boundary and speared the ball with one hand. He pulled it into his body and in the same motion counter-punted the ball back down the field. His kick narrowly escaped the hands of a streaking Brit Lion who chased his side’s penalty-punt offering. Tough’s kick bounced once near the 50-metre line and veered 90 degrees west, floating into touch to the cheers of the Rowing Club supporters.
It was the definitive moment of the second half, as the Rowers seemed to garner renewed momentum from the play and they stormed back down the pitch. With three minutes to go, Andy Donn sealed the Bowl victory when he lunged over the line after taking a pop from Overgaard. Donn was first hit at the four-metre line, but he folded the would-be tackler in half and rambled on to touch the ball down, stretching the score to 22-10.
In the final minute Ben James was awarded a red card from the referee for chirping and he took a long, slow walk across the pitch to Nick Coles’ beer cooler.
Defense was the key to the game as the Rowers made a number of first-up tackles, aggressively attacked defensive scrums, and held the Brit Lions off the score sheet for the final 58 minutes of the game.
Tries: Power, MacGillivray, Scodeller, Donn