The VRC Premier Reserves side lost a heatbreaker at home today, as the visiting Castaway Wanderers scored the winning try in the final minute to earn 23-19 win on the road.
The Reserves pack came out strong in the wet conditions, dominating the breakdowns with physical play on both sides of the ball. Second row forward Connor Hines blew an opponent off a ruck in the first minute to set the tone, and tight head prop and Brockton fan favourite Gus “The Bus” Crowe made made good yards early, but the Rowers were unable to use those strong gains to create any points.
The VRC defense was succeeding on pure effort early, allowing for CW ball carriers to make gains before chasing them down. The visitors got on the board in the seventh minute with a successful penalty kick that ended up being the only points scored in the half. They threatened again before inside center “Magnum” Tom O’Hare (PI), was able to create a turnover at the breakdown to end the threat. A long carry by hooker Ryan Chapman, continued upon offload by Crowe, put the VRC in business late in the period, but it wasn’t meant to be in the wet conditions. 3-0 Castaway Wanderers at half time.
The Rowers Reserves picked up right where they left off in the second half, continuing their hard-charging forward play to advance the ball through the Brockton muck until “Sunshine” Jack Nerraw finally punched one through the defense and across the goal line in the corner for a 5-3 lead in the 43rd minute.
The Wanderers answered in the 51st minute, setting a maul off of a lineout, then peeling off and into the end goal. A successful conversion gave them a 5-10 lead.
Undaunted, the Rowers stuck to power running forward pods to advance into scoring position, featuring gutsy gains by “Tokyo” Jake Schwartz. They were knocking on the door until an errant pass wide was lost backwards, only to have O’Hare track the bounce, clean it up off the deck and put one in the corner for a 12-10 lead in the 54th minute. Fly Half Oisin Daly hit the conversion on a drop.
The Visitors were awarded a penalty on the 22 in the 59th minute on the same play the Rowers lost Nerraw to a head wound, and made it count to take a 1 point lead, 12-13. They threatened again in the 61st minute, but Welsh winger Matt Rowland made one of several key stops. The Wanderers hit another penalty from the 15 yard line in the 64th minute to make a 4 point lead.
Having been punched in the mouth and tasted blood, the Rowers Reserves doubled down. Huge stops behind the gain line by Shwartz, Quinn Cowie and others frustrated the visitors’ attack, forcing them to abandon their pods and swing it wide in their own end, knocking it on and giving a hungry Rowers team the opportunity they needed in the 66th minute.
The Brockton Point downpour did not lend itself to attractive rugby. Attempts to go wide to the backs failed to produce anything crisp, but sheer determination by back liners Daly and Matt Rowland allowed the Rowers to hold on to the ball and spread the defense, making room for more pod phases. Finally, in the 69th minute, second row forward Graham Young punched one through in his Rowers Reserves return to make it 19-16.
The Wanderers made a break up the outside in the 71st minute, and were in business at the 22 before Crowe levelled a punishing hit on a ball carrier and forced a knock on, putting the Rowing Club back in control.
Disaster struck in the 79th minute. A terribly unlucky bounce off the carved up Brockton turf and out of the side of a rowers scrum at mid field gave the CW 8 man an opportunity to scoop up the ball and run into space, breaking the hearts of a deep, wet home crowd.
Coach Chris Seyler had nothing but pride and admiration for his Prem Reserve crew following the loss. He credited the adjustments the side made at the half to correct their defensive shape with allowing them to keep a handle on what was easily their best performance of the year.
The Reserves have a bye next week.
All Photographs by Joscelyn Wallace. Check out our November 16 Home Games gallery for more.