Newfoundland, Quebec teams meet in an under-20 match Friday, with winner going to Eastern final
Ball-carrier Kyle McGuirk of the Junior Rock looks to battle through the tackle of Ontario's Rich Jutronich during the 2010 Eastern Canadian under-20 rugby final at the Swilers rugby pitch last July. The Rock won 20-8. This year's edition of the Junior Rock has a chance to defend its Eastern Canadian title, but first has to get by the Quebec Caribou, their opponents in a game Friday at Swilers. Telegram file photo/Joe Gibbons
The defending Canadian champion Junior Rock may have their hands full when they take on Quebec Caribous in rugby action Friday at the Swilers Complex.
The Rock under-20 squad edged Quebec 26-25 last week and will need another win this weekend to advance to the Eastern Canadian final.
The game against Quebec was "not one for the ages with lots of mistakes made by both teams due to the very wet conditions," said U20 coach Simon Blanks.
Blanks noted all of the Caribou points came as a direct result of the Rock conceding penalties, "either by the boot or by crashing over close to the line from quick tap-and-goes."
Blanks is anticipating another close match Friday.
"The Caribou will arrive in Newfoundland buoyed by the fact they could have won and I anticipate a fierce encounter, " he said.
"Our traditional partisan crowd could be the deciding factor."
"But a major improvement on discipline must be made if The Rock are to win in the return encounter."
The U20 game starts at 5 p.m., and will be preceeded by a senior match between The Rock and Caribou at 3 p.m.
The Senior Rock beat the Caribou 31-5 last week in Quebec.
The Junior Rock team defeated the Vancouver Wave 13-10 to capture the 2010 crown, but British Columbia is not participating in the national playdowns this season.
Instead, Friday's winner will play the Ontario representatives in Ontario on July 23 for the Eastern championship, "always a difficult task," Blanks said.
The Junior Rock looks to be strong overall again this summer.
Newfoundland is returning 80 percent of last year's roster, "so on paper it is a very strong team," said Blanks.
"The entire front row is back and they dominated every other team in the country last year, so I am guessing we should have a solid scrum once again and this will be a main focus of our attack," noted Blanks.
"Obviously, Patrick Parfrey, Jordon Power, Bob Rogers and Kyle Baillie will add something to the squad having spent three weeks at the national camp. Parfrey, Power and Rogers all made Canada's final squad and Baillie was a non-travelling reserve along with Alex Marshall who didn't making the training squad," explained Blanks.
"I'm expecting big things from Seth Hickey and Matt O'Reilly who were excellent at U18 nationals last summer and will certainly provide a wealth of possession at the breakdown," noted Blanks.
"We should have a potent midfield with Parfrey at the helm and of course Patrick McNicholas' goal kicking will feature prominently."
It was McNicholas who booted the game-winning penalty with two minutes to play that carried The Rock to its historic victory last season.
There are some key players missing from last year's squad.
"Zac Coughlan leaves the biggest shoes to fill as he was rampant last year at this level. Shane Stratton, Neil Molloy, Robert Spearing, Craig Lynch and Matt Hebbard are the only other players moving out of the squad," said Blanks.