The Rowers’ top side dropped their opening game this past Saturday, losing on the road to the Meralomas in a game that was much closer than its final score indicates.
The teams traded missed penalties early, the Meralomas putting one off the uprights in the seventh minute, and the Rowers missing wide left in the 10th minute. The Rowers set a maul off a lineout in Lomas territory two minutes later, forcing the hosts to pull it down, earning another penalty opportunity and making good on it, 3-0. The Lomas answered in the 15th minute, tying it up with another penalty, 3-3.
The Meralomas attack caught the Rowers defense shooting in the 17th minute, and took advantage of the miss match to spring a quick runner in space, beat the pursuit, and put it down under the sticks. 10-3 Meralomas.
Rowers fly half Nick Wackawitz added a penalty in the 23rd minute to make it 10-6, and another in the 28th minute to make it 10-9. The Meralomas answered with a penalty of their own in the 30th minute to make the score 13-9.
Longtime Rowers prop Ian Prendiville, coming off the bench, made a quick steal on a Lomas lineout in the 43rd minute to put his team in business. The pattern pushed the Lomas back yard by yard until scrum half Dominic Howard pushed it over the goal line and ground the try. A successful conversion gave the Rowers a 16-13 lead after 45 minutes.
But the ‘Lomas got it back on excellent execution of a drive off of a corner line out in the 49th minute to make it 18-16, and widened their lead in the 57th minute with another try: 16-23.
The Lomas were issued a yellow card in the 59th minute, and the Rowers quickly took advantage, new Welsh center Ollie Joyce finding the space and notching his first try as a Rower, in his debut. A successful conversion tied the score at 23-23.
The Rowers earned another penalty in front of the sticks, elected to tap and go, had the attack stopped by a Meralomas knock on from a failed interception attempt, and weren’t able to capitalize off of the ensuing set piece.
In the 75th minute veteran Rowers halfback Chris Nolan, in off the bench, made some fine yards off of a sneaky backside pick around a Rowers’ scrum, and started some exciting Rowers phase play that the Lomas defense bogged down before it got deep enough to become a threat.
The Lomas gained a 26-23 lead with another penalty kick in the 76th minute that would end up carrying the weight, but it wasn’t for lack of effort.
The Rowers ran into penalty trouble in the final four minutes, but were able to keep the ball inside the Lomas end and earn a turnover and a final chance at an attack inside the opponents thirty.
In the 78th minute, the Lomas defense sent another shooter on an intercept route, and he didn’t miss. With two hands on the ball and a full head of steam, he was able to run it home 70 yards, disappointing the Rowers faithful, and thrilling the home crowd. 33-23 Maralomas.
We couldn’t reach any coaches for comment after the game, but the consensus on the Rowers sideline was one of optimism. The Prems were in it the whole time, and had the pattern working well against a tough Meralomas top side. The new faces are all contributing, and club morale seems high.
The Rowers Prems are next in action away against Burnaby Lake this coming Saturday for Burnaby’s first game of the season.
(With files from Robbie Spearing)