first div Starts 2018 With an Exciting Win
The VRC first division fought hard and earned a victory in their first game of the second half of the season, beating the Bayside Sharks in Surrey 22-24 in a thrilling come-from-behind victory.
Speedy winger Evan Hughes scored a try that, along with a successful penalty kick by centre Brian Durham, pulled the Rowers even with their hosts 8-8 in the first 20′. Durham then added another penalty to put the Rowers up 8-11.
The Sharks responded with an attack made mostly of short, stinging, hard phases to take a 15-11 lead at half time.
The sides traded kicks quite a bit as they each tried to gain the position advantage. Veteran flyhalf Richie Thompson pounded a few low drives that were hard to field, but Bayside were frequently able to counter with hard attack or a kick of their own.
A bad bounce created an opportunity for Bayside as one of their backs ran through about 40 yards of daylight before being chased down and flattened by winger Jack O’Sullivan just past the 22. The ball carrier appeared to have knocked it on in contact, but the match official – who wasn’t shy about making calls – did not see it that way.
Bayside made the most of one of those calls over at their own 22, driving as a pack into the endzone for a try that extended their lead to 22-11 after the conversion.
Durham added another penalty kick to narrow the lead to 8, and the Rowers 1sts looked more and more like a team that weren’t going to quit early.
You Could Call It A Comeback
Centre Connor Cleary made a couple of huge runs and an open field tackle that the ball carrier is still feeling, but Bayside wasn’t quitting either. Kicking for position, they managed to threaten again in characteristic hard phases and earned a scrum deep in Rower territory somewhere around 65′, for an opportunity to put it away.
A punishing Rowing Club pack, behind substitute front row Keegan Watcham-Roy, Jason Carton, and the Gregory “Gus the Bus” Crowe flat out pushed the Sharks scrum over to steal one, then booted it out just past half.
A quick, hard attack from the forward pack off 9 made yards and clearly began to soften the hosts’ defence. 8th man Colin “The Swamp Monster” Cooper (height listed in the Rowers press guide as 11′ 9′) fended a much smaller would-be tackler in contact in a motion that one might use to move a sack of potatoes, and kept going for 15 yards.
There were possession changes in those last minutes, a wet ball ping-ponging back and forth in contact, and some strong defence, noteably from the Watcham-Roy and Crowe who both made hard tackles, then drove a crucial scrum in their own end a good 10 yards as Cooper dribbled the ball at his feet, no doubt making coaches Richard Bice an Ian Cooper (no relation), ex Rowing Club and Rugby Canada props, proud. The 1sts kicked for touch, orchestrated a drive off the lineout and finally drew a penalty for intentional offisides (which had by then become a theme). The Rowing club pack walked the scrum into the end goal for a try, and Durham made the conversion to make it 22-21.
A strong kick and subsequent chase by fullback Oisin Daly allowed him to get a piece of the return kick, taking a bit off of it and allowing the Rowers to make a return and force a frustrated and tired Sharks team into giving up a costly penalty at their own 25. Brian Durham then put one right down the middle to put the Rowers up 22-24 late.
Rowers Dig in Late, Lock it Up
Bayside didn’t quit, driving back the other way and threatening at the Rowers 10 late, in control of the scrum. The Sharks were pushed back, as they had been all day, but somehow earned a penalty. Then, in control of the ball with the Rowers backed up against their own goalposts, the referee decided that he had heard enough of ongoing lip from Bayside, and reversed the penalty, giving the Rowers a chance to kick it out, gain position, win the lineout and run out the clock to complete the away victory.
The VRC Blog has learned that the Bayside player, who had been backchatting the ref all game, was complaining that the ref had missed an early tackle by the Rowers (not back ten) on a previous penalty, but the general tone and non-stop nature of the complaints are thought to have impacted the decision. Neither side had much good to say about this particular official, whose in-game positioning was described by multiple coaches and players following the game as “atrocious”.
The 1st div is away at United next Saturday, February 3, 2017.