In a game where the final margin reflected just how close it played for the whole 80 minutes, the 2018 “Super 2s” fell to the Kamloops Raiders in the finals, 28-27.
It started with pace. The Rowers played a hard charging attack with strong D that threw Kamloops off. Line speed in defense was good early, as Henry Recinos put the VRC2s on the board at the five minute mark with an interception in his own end, a big return, and a hard second effort in support. Recinos would end up scoring 2 tries in the close VRC loss.
Kamloops came right back, scoring a try in the 15th minute (but missing the conversion) to make it 7-5. The Kamloops try came from hard nosed, pack-centred straight-ahead rugby that the Raiders played relentlessly. Their scrum was excellent, pushing the rowing club pack around all day.
With the confidence that comes with an ability to dominate the set piece, the Raiders found another gear.
The teams traded penalties between 20′ and 30′ to make it 10-8, then the Raiders won 3 VRC balls and 2 of their own in the scrums to put in 2 unconverted tries and earn a 20-10 lead at the half.
The halftime huddle was pretty intese. Coach Bice reminded his squad that line speed in defence was critical, had to be better, but it felt like something he said because it was familiar. Line speed in D could, of course, have been better. But more than anything it was an adjustment that could be made. The 2s were being beat in the set pieces on sheer power, allowing Kamloops to control the ball, play most of the rugby, and effectively eliminate any consequence to their handling errors.
Coach Bice swapped out both props 5 minutes into the 2nd half, but was unable to create any measurable improvement in the set piece. The 2nds excelled when their backs had the oportunity to attack with ball in hand. Oisin Daly fed the backline from the 10 position with pinpoint accuracy, setting up long runs by Paddy O’Connell, Matt Liszt, and Recinos. Shane Xavi O’sullivan had a strong game in support setting several one man rucks that stood up to hard counters and kept the ball. The Rowers backs worked a try off of a Stu Holland kick and chase that both he and a defender over-ran, but Recinos was able to get to it in a relentless support effort.
20-15 in the 48th minute, and the Rowers were back in it. With ball in hand, Kevin Nanne was able to deliver another try in the 52nd minute, and Daly hit the conversion for a 2 point lead, 22-20.
But there was no quit in Kamloops. Fatigue had begun to set in and offside penalties in their own end backed the Rowers up against their own goal line where they mounted a defensive stand that felt like it lasted an eternity before finally conceding a try in the 57th minute. 22-25.
The beautiful penalty kick that Daly was able to slot in the 74th minute to re-take the lead 27-25 felt great, but only ended up letting the Super 2s dream on it for a few more minutes. Kamloops kicked a drop goal in the final 2 minutes to take a 28-27 lead and the 2nd division Provincial Championship.
This one was hard to take. To the man, the 2s played their guts out in that final game.  Our scoresheet ran out of room to count tackles for Matt Liszt, Kevin Nanne and Shane Xavi O’sullivan. Ezekiel Colwell also had an excellent game in defense, and we saw great, high-motor play all down the sheet. Sunshine, Dan Francis, sneaky halfback Chris Nolan… there was a sense of urgency and determination all day that built to an in-game tension that I’m not sure I’ll ever feel again.
That tension didn’t feel like it got cut short of its natural peak, so much as it was flat stopped by blunt force trauma. The kind that throbs and stings at the same time, and takes a while to go away. A couple of veteran players had said that the finals would be their last game. The blog isn’t going to name them because they might feel differently about it when the leaves start to change this fall. But the feeling that was bothering me on the bus in, the sense that this particular team wouldn’t get to play together anymore became real all at once, and a few guys got something in their eye. Allergies or something, I think.
The First Div went on to win their championship in convincing fashion, and that took the sting off of it quite a bit. As on-field rugby ends, there is a club-wide sense that we’re headed in the right direction. Hard losses are part of being great. They make players, coaches and clubs better. Because rugby hurts, and we wouldn’t want to have it any other way.
The Super 2s would like to thank all of our families, supporters and sponsors for sticking with us through an epic season!
Special thanks from the VRC Blog to Sharron Holland, Amy Rankin, Abby Doucet and Dan Francis who snapped photos for us on gameday, and to everyone who had my clipboard and game sheet shoved at them when I got subbed in. Too many to list.
And how ’bout a BIG round of applause for Chantalle Bracken-Ilich? She handled the Rowers Womens’ posts in their important inaugural year, and we’re looking forward to building on that coverage next year.

Stay tuned for more pictures and for summer updates from the Rowers Rugby Blog.

L-R, Star winger Henry Recinos (2 tries in the final), some blogger, Fish the Financier and an extra from Top Gun.

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