The Rowers Reserves hosted the Meralomas at home Saturday, losing by nine points despite a strong effort. The 60 minute friendly contest was made possible by the ‘Lomas, who were kind enough to fill in for a Seattle Reserves team that was not available for the scheduled fixture.
The Rowers Reserves staked themselves to a five point lead off the kickoff, as new Rower Darrah McKinley put one in right away in the corner.
The Meralomas would respond in the seventh minute from a lineout on the Rowers’ five meter line. They secured clean ball off the top, and immediately spun it to the back line, who each fixed a defender and moved it down the line until it had gone the width of the field, and the last man had been dropped in bounds, then picked from the base and pushed it in from the ruck. 5-5 seven minutes in to a 60 minute friendly.
But the Rowers were undeterred. Front Row veteran and Pride of the Ottawa Irish Gregory “Gus the Bus” Crowe showed some nimble hands and expert timing in the tenth minute, as he picked off a ‘Lomas pass at his own 22, and delivered a big return that set his team up in the opposing end. The pressure was good, but a sharp ‘Lomas defense held them off, earned a penalty, and kicked the threat away.
The VRC attack broke through in the 18th minute and earned a try plus the conversion, to make it 12-5 Rowers.
Flanker Morgan “Slam Dunkerson” Brinson extended his try scoring streak to two games in the 21st minute, and the Rowers tacked on a successful conversion to make it 19-5.
The ‘Lomas attack continued to press, and created a fine chance in the 24th minute, exploiting an overlap and leaving the attacker with one man to beat. Rookie Kiwi fullback Aaron Applegate stood his ground and made a punishing tackle on his own five to save a try, drawing a big cheer from the Rowers’ bench.
The visitors narrowed the score in the 31st minute with a sneaky throw to the front man in a lineout at the Rowers’ ten. That got their big man enough space to set them up inside the five, where they ground out patient, consistent phases until they found the goal line. The convert missed, and left the Rowers with a 19-10 lead.
The ‘Loma pressure continued after half-time (30 minute halves in this exhibition), when they won another lineout at the Rowers’ 30, moved it wide again with excellent pace until it found the mark in the corner, narrowing the Rowers’ lead to 19-15.
But the home side kept coming. Scrum half Dominic Howard picked from the base of a strong Rowers scrum, and took it on an exciting 20 yard ramble, lost it backwards in contact, whereupon it was scooped up by flanker Quinn Cowie, running a strong support line, to keep the offense on the move.
Set up in the attacking end, the Rowers backline worked a textbook give-and-go, Cole Braid expertly drawing his man, and feeding Colin O’Brien who stepped in through the hole and put it down. 26-15 Rowers in the 42nd minute.
The Meralomas comeback started with a bad Rowers’ bounce on a grubber kick that hopped off the Brockton grass and into the defender’s hands, instead of skipping through the line as intended. The counter attack made a foot-race out of it, beat the pursuit with strong hustle from the support, and put it down for the points. 26-22 VRC in the 45th minute.
The Rowers had trouble staying on the front foot late, losing momentum to knock-ons and penalties. The defense allowed another ‘Lomas try in the 49th minute, conceding a 26-29 lead, and then another try to a very quick Meralomas back line that showed a lot of gas late; running laterally to mix up the defensive assignments, and cutting up-field through the hole. 34-26 Meralomas in the 56th minute.
Rowers Forwards Coach Jon Mergui, pressed into service Saturday as a referee, was overheard yelling at the Reserves after the final try that they had committed too many to the defensive side of the ruck.
The Rowers threatened again, but time ran out before they could make it count.
The Reserves are next in action October 15th against the Ravens at Jericho Beach Park. 12:45 kickoff.