Hard-fought win over Pacific means Atlantic reps still have a shot at CRCâtitle
His teammates celebrate after Owen Parfrey (with ball) of The Rock scores a try against the Pacific Tyee in their Canadian Rugby Championship league game Tuesday at the Swilers Complex in St. Johnâs. The Rock won 26-20. â Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
After watching his team suffer a couple of close losses to start its 2012 CanadianâRugby Championship schedule, Atlantic Rock coach SimonâBlanks wasnât as concerned with earning a win Tuesday night as much as he was in seeing a vast improvement in the contact game.
âOur number one focus tonight, irrespective of the score, was to see if we could step up and be men and not let the opposition bring the game to us, but (for us) take it to them,â Blanks said of the plan of attack against the Victoria, B.C.-based Pacific Tyee in a game at the Swilers RugbyâComplex.
Blanks players responded, delivering a punishing physical game, while Ciaran Hearn kicked seven penalties in a hard-fought 26-20 victory. OwenâParfrey added a try for The Rock late in the first half.
âBecause we donât get many wins against B.C. teams, historically, to beat them is an extremely proud moment for all of us, especially on the back of two narrow losses,â said Blanks.
The Rock lost its CRCâopener 23-19 to the Ontario Blues, then dropped a 22-18 decision to the Prairie Wolf Pack Saturday in St. Johnâs.
The Wolf Pack leads the league, but Prairieâs 38-17 loss to the Blues in Tuesdayâs other CRC game keeps The Rockâs title hopes alive. But realization of those hopes wonât come easy â The Rock will need to win their last two games â Sept. 15 in Calgary against the Wolf Pack and Sept. 22 at home against the Blues â while collecting as many bonus points as possible, while at the same time hoping the Tyee defeat the Blues Sept 15.
After letting Saturdayâs game get away from them in the waning minutes of the second half, theâRock were in danger of allowing the same thing to happen again Tuesday. Not long after Hearn kicked his sixth penalty to put the Rock up 23-15, his missed attempt at a long-range drop goal resulted in a turnover and the Tyeeâs Conor Trainor scoring a try to bring the visitors within one penalty.
âWe were terrified going into the last few minutes because they were starting to get a few rumbles, a few trundles, a few offloads and a few breaks,â says Blanks.
âWe were trying to prevent them from getting into any kind of continuity like that and I think we managed to do it just enough.â
The home side did so by sacrificing any potential bonus points awarded for scoring more tries by having Hearn kick penalties instead, thereby slowing the game down considerably. Several times in the second half, Pat Parfrey, The Rockâs director of rugby, could be heard yelling âGo for points!â
âTheyâve got a team of runners, once they got any kind of fluidity of play they were deadly, so we were trying to limit their opportunities to get their backs into the game,â said Blanks.
âRight now,âI couldnât give a monkeyâs ... about the bonus points, just the fact they dug in deep and lifted themselves up off two narrow losses.
While Blanks and Parfrey continued to use a roster made up largely of under-21 players, the return of Chauncey OâToole to the Rock midfield paid off as the national team player dished out twice as many hits as he took.
âIt brings everybody up when we know heâs coming and ready to play,â Hearn says of his long-time teammate.
âNot to take anything away from anyone else, but to have someone of his caliber come on the field and put forward the effort he does is amazing.â
As for the daunting task The Rock faces in its quest for a championship Hearn believes âit can be done.â
âWe didnât do ourselves any favours in the first two games, but hopefully, we can get a couple of victories and get a few bonus points and maybe hope for another team to lose one,â he said
For those wondering, a fish story
Prior to this year, the Pacific region representatives in the CanadianâRugbyâChampionship have hit the pitch under the B.C. Bears moniker. This yearâs team name, ironically enough, is that of main staple in a B.C. bearâs diet: the tyee salmon.
Also known as the chinook salmon or king salmon, the fish are native to the northern Pacific ocean and rivers in western North America from California all the way to Alaska, where it is the state fish.
An adult tyee ranges in size from 33 to 36 inches and has an average weight of about 50 pounds. The commercial catch world record is a 126-pound specimen caught near Rivers Inlet, B.C. in the late 1970s.