A last second kick broke the hearts of the VRC faithful at Brockton Point Saturday, spoiling a tremendous effort by a VRC top side who are clearly coming together to play as a unit.
The Capilanos opened the scoring, getting it out to a very strong back-line who made use of space and worked a strong offload game to get on the board with a try in the 4th minute. The conversion made it 7-0.
The Rowers were able to get three points back on a Joe Holland penalty kick in the 11th minute to make it 7-3. Both sides showed tight, pro-style pattern for the next 20 minutes, kicking for position and applying pressure. The Rowers defense tightened up, holding the Capilanos to a single penalty kick for the the remainder of the half, and forcing numerous handling errors.
The VRC pack dominated the set pieces. Front row forwards Josh Waller, Ian Prendiville and Robbie Spearing were able to give their opposite numbers fits, earning penalties all day with a strong, low push that forced the Capilanos to pull it down, lose their binds and otherwise spoil the sets. Lineouts were a tight unit, captain Jason Carton, in his first Rowers start at the 8 man position, hitting flanker Micheal Cooke in the far jumper spot with regularity.
The strong sets created some space for the Rowers’ back line, which made yards against a tight Capilano defense, eventually creating enough momentum to allow MONSTER Rower Rookie Winger Ryan Brett Williams to break through on the outside and score a try in the corner in the 38th minute, carrying would-be tacklers as he went.
The Rowers went into the half down 8-10.
The Red and White came out firing in the second half, bringing a high-paced attack, showing off the abilities of a very strong back line. The Rowers set the defense, and executed a beautiful switch pass from fly half Nick Wackawitz to center Doug “E-Fresh” Fraser, who used his speed and some intelligent line running earned his team a try under the posts and a 15-10 lead in the 53rd minute.
The teams spent the next 20 minutes kicking for psoition and trying to make the most of attacks off of the resulting set pieces, while running into each others’ defenses. Substitute prop Eddy Quinn made several key stops, and Wackawitz had a high-motor game on defense. The Rowers attack was relentless, and substitute flanker Tommy Windows ended up being the one to finally get clean ball in space and open up some yards across mid field. Tommy hung on to the ball in contact and a quick Rowers’ support was able to recycle the ball before the Capilanos defense could get organized and keep it moving through chase tackles until rookie Rower Michael Cooke put one down. Center Joe Holland slotted the conversion to make it 25-17 in the 73rd minute, but the home crowd’s delight was short-lived.
Attacking in pods from the Rowers’ 22 in the 76th minute, the Caps managed to suck enough Rowers defenders into the ruck to spring a quick center with a good step and cut the VRC lead to 24-25.
Then, with time expiring, the Capilanos set a maul off of a lineout that didn’t look as though it was going anywhere, and were awarded a penalty of some description. The Caps’ fly half made a very difficult kick in front of the Rowers side-line to make it 27-25 Caps at the final whistle.
Coach Syeler might have been the Rower the least visibly effected by the loss. He expressed great pride in a much improved side who stood up to an A-caliber team. “That’s rugby,” Seyler told me after the game, “they had a great kicker he made the best of his opportunity.”
The close margin represented a distinct improvement over the lop-sided loss away at Burnaby last week. This week’s outing looked a lot tighter, had more continuity. A close loss like this surely stings, but it also helps to build a callus.
The Rowers Prems play another home game next week against the Maralomas.