The VRC Second Division will play in a championship final this coming Saturday, after beating Burnaby Lake 24-12 at Brockton this past Saturday.
The Super 2s were playing all the rugby early on the wet day, running a crisp pattern and making yards as they wore at a strong Burnaby defense. Scrum half Chris Nolan opened the scoring in the 10th minute as he peeled off the back of a Rowers maul set from a lineout at the Burnaby 10 to put one in the corner and get the 2s on the board. 5-0. 
But Burnaby came right back. They had a strong pack, and after cleanly winning their own scrum just outside the Rowers 22 at mid-field, Burnaby ran a quick pass (described by sideline observers as “aggressively flat”) from their 9 position to a back coming at pace who was able to put one in under the posts. The conversion gave Burnaby a 2 point lead in the 14th minute. 7-5.

A Complete Performance, Not Yet Perfect

2nd row forward Kevin Nanne, shown here bringing the juice.

The 2nd Div kept themselves in it with the type of defense that the coaching staff had been looking for all year. Aggressive tackling and tenacious counter-rucking frustrated Burnaby into taking several penalties for slowing production and a yellow card to go with them in the 20th minute. The Rowers kicked for position, won the lineout, and immediately attacked with purpose, sending speedy winger “Handlebar” Henry Recinos in for another corner try. Osin Daly slotted the conversion to put the Rowers up 12-7.
There was tension on the home sideline in the 33rd minute as centreback Matt Liszt had to be carried off with a lower body injury. Liszt had been putting together an excellent outing on the wet day, finishing three big open field tackles before being carried off. The dynamic back and aspiring shampoo model later told The Rowers Blog that the injury was non-critical. He expects to train this week.
Despite finally turning out a consistent 80 minute effort, discipline continued to be a problem for the Rowers 2s. They were marched back for tackle height that was too high and, on one occasion were marched back an additional ten meters for voicing unsolicited opinions on the original call. Burnaby was able to add another try before the half, but not the conversion, and make it a 12-12 tie at half time.

Posession and a 2nd Half Effort Put It Away

Coming out of the half, the Rowers continued the solid, impassioned home-pitch effort against a Burnaby side eager for an upset. Ultimately, the Rowers just plain wanted it more. With Burnaby feeding their own scrum at their own 22, the VRC pack pushed them back quick enough that, after pulling the ball out of a messy, backwards moving scrum, the Burnaby 9 was met by a Chris Nolan tackle hard enough to knock the ball loose. The speedy Rowers utility back then scooped the ball for a run through space to paydirt. The conversion made it 17-12 in the 46th minute, and the 2nds never looked back.

Connor “Big Lift” Hines carries the ball in this file photo. Sunshine, Osin Daly and Disco Stu in support. Hines had 6 tackles and 1 yellow card in the semifinal win

Despite the aforementioned altitude problems in tackles, the Rowers defense was absolutely fierce on Saturday. An un-official and incomplete tackle count have flankers Jack “Sunshine”
Nerraw and “BD” Dan Francis as the tackle leaders with seven each. Second row forward Kevin “Counsel for the Defense” Nanne also had several vicious hits, but excellent shape and line speed team wide is what made it all possible.
Possession was also key to the Rowers win, with several great turnovers having been created in rucks and immediately after tackles by aggressive moves to the ball. The Rowers won all but 2 of their own lineouts, all of their own scrums, and stole a scrum from Burnaby in the 15th minute.
Two late tries, by Chris Nolan and Paddy “Luck O’ the Irish” O’Connell put the Rowers up 24-12, but Burnaby never gave up. Finding the ball control and phase play that they had been looking for all game to score a try in the final minute and cut the lead to 24-17, but it was too late. The Rowing Club Super 2s had finally put together the consistency and aggression that they expect of themselves for a full 80 minutes in their final home game of 2017, and earned a spot in the finals.
The Rowers will play Kamloops in the final next Saturday in Abbotsford at the Province-wide club finals. Stay tuned to the blog for details about kickoff times and travel arrangements.
Paddy O’Connell (left) scored a try vs Burnaby in a hungry semifinal performance.

All photos by Abby Doucet

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