Firsts find redemption

Photos: Malin Jordan
Carlin Wilkin dives over the tryline in the Rowers’ 33-18 victory over
Kamloops Dec. 1. 

Winning has a way of taking the sting out of a previous loss. Back in October the Rowers’ first division squad was a first-place, undefeated side, when they suffered a heart-breaking defeat to Kamloops. (The Rowers gave up a last-minute try in the losing effort.) But redemption is sweet and the VRC’s top side tasted it Dec. 1 at Brockton Oval when they downed Kamloops in the rematch.

The Super Twos also toppled Kamloops, but their rematch was much closer than the thumping the seconds laid on Kamloops back in October.


Steve MacGillivary makes a tackle in the first half.

The firsts opened the scoring about five minutes in when Kevin Gurniak chased a Matty James cover-kick from the Rowers’ 40-metre line. Gurniak raced neck-and-neck with three Kamloops defenders until the ball trickled near Kamloops’ tryline. Then Gurniak ignited his afterburners, rocketed past the defenders, and touched the ball down for the Rowers’ first try of the day, 7-0.

A Rower makes a tackle in the first half.

“James and Gurniak combined early with some kick and chase wizardry – Gurniak picking up the grounded ball on the fly without losing a single km/h,” noted head coach Jeremy Sabel.

But despite the lightning start, Kamloops bounced right back, posting a penalty goal and an unconverted try for a quick 8-7 lead. It was short-lived though, as Carlin Wilkin speared a Kamloops pass soon after, trotting 30 metres for an easy try, 14-8.

“Carlin, who was massive all day in the midfield, intercepted that pass under pressure and went under the sticks,” Sabel said.

From there the Rowers controlled the flow of play even as Kamloops retained some good ball and stole the momentum at times.

Sabell explained that one of the try scorers, Nolan Laderoute, was an 18-year old Rowers’ Rugby Academy grad. “He stepped gingerly through would-be tacklers to score on debut.”

Sabell said the whole squad contributed to the win with a huge defensive effort, adding that notable standouts were: Wilkin, George Richmond, Matt Cox, Gurniak, James, and Laderoute. Final score: 33-18.

With the victory, the 1sts (6-2) leapfrog Kamloops (6-3) to take sole possession of third place. Tries: George Richmond, Carlin Wilkin, Kevin Gurniak, Matty James, and Nolan Laderoute.


Jordan Armstrong falls short of the tryline, by about an inch, late in the
second half.
Sacha Floyd carries the ball toward the Kamloops line late
in the second half.

The second division team played a much-tougher Kamloops side than they faced Oct. 13 at Rayleigh Rugby Park. That win, a runaway at 75-25, was the exact opposite of the nail-biter played out at the Oval.

After scoring an early try to jump out 5-0, both sides battled without giving or taking much ground for most of the rest of the first half. With five minutes left in the opening frame, Kamloops managed to snatch a try to tie the game 5-5. But the Rowers’ stormed right back on the ensuing kickoff, scoring a converted try to go up 12-5 as the half-time whistle blew.

Despite some great attacking running from both sides, the score remained 12-5 for almost the entire second half. Most of it was played in the Kamloops end, as the squad from the interior camped out on their own tryline for a 25-minute goalline stand.

As the Rowers pressed for points, they continued to take penalties, lose the ball in contact, and suffer multiple, self-inflicted knock-ons. This kept Kamloops in the game. After missing an attempt for three points on a rare Kamloops penalty, “Irish” Ritchie Thompson soon made up for his “wide-left.”

“It was a brilliant drop-goal dagger that sealed the win,” noted Sabel, adding that Thompson’s last-minute three knocked the fight out of Kamloops. “It was a hard-fought slugfest that was slowed by the weather and defensive determination from Kamloops.”

The Super Twos’ front row gets ready to pack down in the second half.

Forward Sacha Floyd played a blinder in the second frame, running from anywhere and everywhere with the ball, breaking tackles, making the gain-line, and retaining ball in contact. In the backs, Jordan Armstrong also played well, making the Kamloops defenders miss more often than they could tackle him. Final score 15-5.

Special m
entions go to Justin “Special P” Parlato for some lengthy power rambles with the ball and to Dillon DeBono for great work around the rucks. The squad climbs to 7-1 with the win.


Sabell said the club could be pleased with their performance and standings after the first half of the season closed.

“When you consider that at any given time, since early September, we have had no fewer than 15 players and as many as 20 from our top two divisions out with injury, the boys have done extremely well to maintain cohesion and gel as a group with lots of character.”

He added that a good core of players returned from last season, but that they have been bolstered by plenty of new faces in the squad.

“It’s been great to see how quickly the guys have come together as a team. The challenge now is to get healthier, stronger, and fitter over the break so that we can step up our performance several more notches in the second half.”

The VRC’s next matches take place Feb. 9 when the 1sts and 2nds host UBC at the Oval.

Irish Ritchie’s drop goal seals the win for the Rowers.
Gareth Brown pops the ball back inside during 1st division play.
Rob McDonnell passes the ball off in the first half of 2nd division play.

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