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Thursday, July 02, 2015

Buckle Up: Williams Lake 2015

The "Romas"

For the fourth year running, the Rowing Club and Meralomas entered a joint squad in the annual Williams Lake Rustlers Stampede summer tournament. The Rowers Ruck Muck was on hand to cover all the action as the “Romas” laid down an exciting performance, winning all 4 of their 40 minute games and coming home with the coveted Williams Lake Rodeo Buckle.

L-R "Greyhound" Brett Lucas, DJ the Killer Kiwi, & Cool Hand Luke Baker. Not pictured: the rest of the cow.
Editor's Note: Game sheets were unavailable and our reporter’s notes aren’t good, so readers will have to do without scoring details.

The Friday evening arrival hours set fun expectations. Carloads of talented players rolled in as the sun set over a pitch full of vacationing rugby players visiting and drinking. Between the anticipation and the hard ground, there wasn’t much sleep. Last minute roster addition Brett “Greyhound” Lucas was fetched at the bus station at 5:30 am to fill out the roster. Purportedly, he slept on the bus.

Environment Canada lists the temperature at kickoff in Williams Lake for the Romas first game against Abbotsford at 25.3°C, with 29% humidity, but it felt like at least 40°C. Electing to forego a warm up to save energy, the Romas kept even early against a physical Abbotsford side (dubbed the “S.H.I.T.S” and sporting a decidedly vulgar game kit), before using speed and talent to pull ahead in the second half. Young Aussie centre Luke Baker found holes in the defense and seemingly broke for long runs and tries at will. Super-sub back row Brendan Fagan put in hard minutes in a sweltering 2nd half, only to collapse from heat exhaustion and have to be attended to by medics at the final whistle. He would recover and go on to stand out again on Sunday. The Romas won their opener convincingly, and tried to cool down to get ready for their next pool game.

Kickoff temperature for the 2nd game against the host Williams Lake Rustlers was 27.4°C, and it felt like a bushfire. Halfbacks Chris Nolan and Duncan James distributed well to the talent around them, setting up exciting tries for “Greyhound” Brett, Nick Samija and several standout Lomas regulars. Tight head prop Chris Seyler (who would end up playing every minute of every game) ran a commanding crash ball that gave the Romas back line more space than they needed. After finally getting some ball in the 2nd half, the Rustlers tried to use their size, picking from the base for multiple carries, making very few yards against a Romas defense content to hold on for the win and get back into the shade.

Recollections of Saturday night are few, but the Ruck Muck has received a thank you card from the United womens’ side addressed to a certain tattooed centre who apparently conducted strong diplomatic relations. Noted social butterfly and hard charging prop Jason Carton was puzzled by repeated rejection. Maybe next year, J.

Having won their pool, the Romas had a bye in the morning game slot on Sunday, and faced the arch rival Capilanos to earn a spot in the finals; kickoff temperature 29.2°C. It felt like a supernova. The Romas looked shakey, going down by 3 tries early. Strong defending by 2nd row Justin Parlato and hooker Scott McGinley– who jackled exceptionally well – kept the Romas in it. Several fierce restart contentions by BYU 7s Standout Ben Keith kept the Caps from going even further ahead, but they enjoyed a commanding 3 try lead at the half.
Out half Duncan James impressed upon an under performing team that this was a winnable game. Substitute centre Nick Samija came on with fresh legs to make good yards and retain the ball well, and left a layer of skin the size of a dinner plate on the dried out pitch in the process. As the Romas put 2 tries in behind excellent attacking into space and pure speed, a big, tired Capilanos team must have felt it slipping away. The final try equalized it and an expert conversion put the Romas ahead by 2 with no time left. Nick Coles received the restart, kicked the ball into touch to end the game, and put the Romas in the final against Burnaby after a dramatic second half comeback.

Back Row Brendan Fagan, fresh off a nap

The Romas annihilated Burnaby in the final. Temperature at kickoff was 31.4°C and it felt like buckle weather. With one thing on their mind, the Romas back line flat out dominated as Cam [Last name unknown] got into repeated footraces that all ended in the Burnaby end goal. The Romas tries started to look like replays. Dan “Dee Smitty” Smith, his playing days now behind him, played a crucial role in keeping the side well hydrated running what may have been the best sideline shade-and-water operation in history, despite little to no help and punishing conditions.

The Coveted 2015 Stampede Buckle
Romas Captains Accept The Trophy

Background:Rugby Slip n Slide
Foreground: Your Reporter, Obscured by Heat
Your 2015 Stampede Champs

Soundtrack for the final paragraph.

At the final whistle, on the way back from a victory in the finals, we hit the slip and slide in the high heat, took a photo under the sticks and came on up to the house to get strapped up as the 2015 Williams Lake Stampede Tournament Champs. The 2015 Romas was a patchwork quilt that somehow went well together and refused to quit while facing a score deficit and intense heat. We took pictures with the cow-scull trophy and enjoyed a welcome sunset and wore grins that still haven’t faded. Next year, the tournament will be different and the team will be different and this year will live on as a legend to be lived up to. But last Sunday night, on a pitch that had been cooked dry by punishing heat, an uncontrollable Frankenstein of a rugby team, destined to exist for only three summer days and nights, went out on top.

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