On a perfect day for rugby, only one team showed up to play Saturday at Swilers Complex in St. John’s.
Unfortunately for the home fans, it wasn’t The Rock.
Ontario Blues spotted The Rock an early
7-0 lead and then scored the rest of the points in the one-sided match for a 41-7 victory in Canadian Rugby Championships (CRC) league action Saturday at Swilers Complex.
The Rock, with only one win in three games and two remaining on the schedule, are not yet mathematically eliminated. However, the machinations needed for The Rock to defend its national title are too numerous to mention and all the stars would have to align.
The Rock, with a bit of luck, probably should have scored two or three more tries in Saturday’s game given the chances the team had inside the Blues’ five-metre line, but it would be taking away from the Ontario side’s stellar defence to say The Rock deserved any more points.
The home team missed tackles and kicks, dropped the ball and showed poor judgement in decision-making. It all resulted in one of the worst defeats in St. John’s in a very long time.
The Rock’s open-field tackling was laughable. It looked as if the Newfoundland-based team was playing tag with an opposition that had a nose for the endzone and wasn’t likely to be stopped with the wave of a hand.
It was painfully clear The Rock couldn’t find adequate replacements for Frank Walsh, Ciaran Hearn, Chauncey O’Toole and Jebb Sinclair, who are all with Canada’s team preparing for Rugby World Cup competition. In fairness, no CRC team could replace that level of talent.
With the guts of the team eviscerated, The Rock had no answers for an Ontario team bent on destruction.
Oddly enough, The Rock couldn’t have had a better start to the game, holding possession from the opening kickoff, moving the ball down the field and capping a free-flowing attack off with Dean Blank’s try from about two metres.
After that, The Rock basically stood back and watched Ontario run up and down the field. The home team was outplayed in the forwards and the backs all game long.
Like most coaches, Blues’ mentor Rob Doyle doesn’t believe there’s such a thing as a perfect game.
“We did some things really well, but there were other things we weren’t quite happy with,” said Doyle, who put his team’s win down to “heart and discipline.”
Doyle said it was a tough game and, “We weren’t given anything for nothing. We had to work for every point we scored,” he added, while being very generous to the losers.
“It was terribly disappointing,” Rock veteran No. 8 Ken Goodland said. “Some of the pace took us by surprise and they took advantage of every opportunity we gave them.
Goodland maintained the big scoring gap wasn’t indicative of the overall game, but admitted the team made the kinds of mistakes, “I don’t remember us making the past seven or eight years.”
The Rock played a man short for 10 minutes in the second half when veteran Rod Snow was yellow-carded for a devastating, but illegal, shoulder check to Blues’ back Connor McCann who had just caught the ball. A brief melee ensued, with some punches being thrown, but no one else was disciplined.
The Rock plays host to British Columbia next Saturday and finishes out the season on the road against at Ontario Sept. 3.
The Canadian Press
All Times ET
MP W L T PF PA BNS Pt
Ontario Blues 3 2 1 0 112 59 4 12
Prairie Wolf Pack 4 2 2 0 103 108 3 11
British Columbia 4 2 2 0 118 129 2 10
The Rock 3 1 2 0 55 92 0 4
Note: Four points for a win, two for a draw, bonus point for scoring four or more tries or for losing by seven or fewer points
At St. John’s
Ontario Blues 41 The Rock 7
Connor McCann (2 tries); Liam Underwood (2 tries)
Wilson Ross (1 try); Ryan McSween (1 try); Steve Piatek (4 conversions, 1 penalty)
The Rock points
Dean Blanks (1 try, 1 conversion)
Prairie Wolf Pack 35 British Columbia 23
Saturday, Aug. 13
British Columbia 31 Prairie Wolf Pack 29
Saturday, Aug. 27
At St. John’s
British Columbia at The Rock, 1:30 p.m.
Prairie Wolf Pack at Ontario Blues, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 3
The Rock at Ontario Blues, TBA