Plenty of Rock hits played at Swilers Tuesday night

Kenn Oliver
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Hard-fought win over Pacific means Atlantic reps still have a shot at CRC title

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. John’s. The Rock won 26-20. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

After watching his team suffer a  couple of close losses to start its 2012 Canadian Rugby Championship schedule, Atlantic Rock coach Simon Blanks wasn’t as concerned with earning a win Tuesday night as much as he was in seeing a vast improvement in the contact game.

“Our 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,” Blanks said of the plan of attack against the Victoria, B.C.-based Pacific Tyee in a game at the Swilers Rugby Complex.

Blanks players responded, delivering a punishing physical game, while Ciaran Hearn kicked seven penalties in a hard-fought 26-20 victory. Owen Parfrey added a try for The Rock late in the first half.

“Because we don’t 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,” said Blanks.

The Rock lost its CRC opener 23-19 to the Ontario Blues, then dropped a 22-18 decision to the Prairie Wolf Pack Saturday in St. John’s.

The Wolf Pack leads the league, but Prairie’s 38-17 loss to the Blues in Tuesday’s other CRC game keeps The Rock’s title hopes alive. But realization of those hopes won’t come easy — The Rock will need to win their last two games — Sept. 15 in Calgary against the Wolf Pack and Sept. 22 at home against the Blues — while collecting as many bonus points as possible, while at the same time hoping the Tyee defeat the Blues Sept 15.

After letting Saturday’s game get away from them in the waning minutes of the second half, the Rock 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 Tyee’s Conor Trainor scoring a try to bring the visitors within one penalty.

“We 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,” says Blanks.

“We were trying to prevent them from getting into any kind of continuity like that and I think we managed to do it just enough.”

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 Rock’s director of rugby, could be heard yelling “Go for points!”

“They’ve 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,” said Blanks.

“Right now, I couldn’t give a monkey’s ... 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 O’Toole to the Rock midfield paid off as the national team player dished out twice as many hits as he took.

“It brings everybody up when we know he’s coming and ready to play,” Hearn says of his long-time teammate.

“Not 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.”

As for the daunting task The Rock faces in its quest for a championship Hearn believes “it can be done.”

“We didn’t 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,” he said

For those wondering, a fish story

Prior to this year, the Pacific region representatives in the Canadian Rugby Championship have hit the pitch under the B.C. Bears moniker. This year’s team name, ironically enough, is that of main staple in a B.C. bear’s 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.

koliver@thetelegram.com

Twitter@telykenn

Organizations: Ontario Blues, B.C. Bears

Geographic location: California, Victoria, Calgary Pacific North America Alaska Rivers Inlet

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Recent comments

  • Rock Communications
    September 06, 2012 - 11:23

    Paul, I'm very happy to hear you were at the recent (and previous) Rock games and have enjoyed your experience. However, as the person responsible for media relations for The Rock, I have to take exception with your position that we do not do enough to ensure coverage by local media to promote the matches. We have had an excellent relationship with local media for a number of years and have enjoyed an unprecedented (in Canadian rugby) amount of coverage as a result. We hold press conferences prior to matches that are regularly attended by The Telegram, CBC (Here and Now), NTV News and VOCM. For example, the Thursday August 2nd conference before the recent Wolf Pack game resulted in stories on both Here and Now and NTV News, a page and a half of rugby coverage in the weekend Telegram (a match preview plus a profile of young prop Bob Rogers) and spots on VOCM radio. NTV also interviewed me at halftime from the match. In the past we have had former CBC weatherman Karl Wells in a scrum doing his weather hit and the forwards have boosted Sharon Snow in a line-out during the NTV weather report. Jeff Gilhooly, the past CBC Morning Show host often had members of The Rock into the studio for interviews before big matches. K-Rock is a Rock media partner and have regular advertisements before big matches and Big Tom (God rest his soul) would often broadcast Saturday in the Shed from the Swilers parking lot - and play Rock You by Helix when requested. We have also in recent years began live streaming matches on the web on Bell Aliant. When Rock player Geoff Warden (originally from BC) was interviewed by BC Rugby News in 2010 to compare BC rugby with rugby in Newfoundland, he highlighted the great media coverage we get here in Newfoundland. "This level of fan support is largely due to an extended effort to get media coverage to event. Before big games out here, daily full page newspaper articles, TV/radio interviews and often some level of broadcasting. As much of the population doesn’t understand rugby or how it’s played, this really keeps people updated and hyped up for games, and is why The Rock is routinely able to get thousands to games. When playing in BC, I rarely saw this level of marketing for games and believe it is somewhere we (BC) can improve…." http://www.bcrugbynews.com/show_news.cfm?ID=464 Each year The Rock enjoys an enormous amount of fan support, and our fans are recognized across the country as being boisterous, loud and intimidating. The support we receive from local media is a major factor in helping get these great fans (like yourself) up to matches to enjoy the exciting action and atmosphere that characterize a Rock home game at the Swilers Complex. The next home game is Sept 22 3pm at the Swilers Complex Crosbie Road vs The Ontario Blues. Visit The Rock website www.rockrugby.ca to see Rock news and their 2012 schedule. Geoff Coughlan - Media Manager - The Rock

    • Paul Delaney
      September 06, 2012 - 14:48

      Thanks for the reply, but despite a list of things that have been done it is still hard to find out easily or just as importantly by happenstance that there is a game on or upcoming. My brother goes to every game and when we met at the park with another friend of his and others nearby it was part of the talk while waiting for the game. To be honest I'd suggest something like a lit/flashing billboard at the bottom of Crosbie Rd positioned strategically near the lights, maybe another on the parkway near MUN, on the overpass perhaps. Perhaps the local businesses would allow one to be placed somewhere there, and get mention at the game. Myself I don't watch much TV news. I get most online. In the lead up to the recent games there was no mention on either VOCM nor the Telegram that there was a game coming up, neither game day or before. There was an article about Bob Rogers before either game, but even that article didn't mention the upcoming games!! Not online at least. So I can see there is a bit going on, but I'd still say that more work needs to be done.

  • Paul Delaney
    September 05, 2012 - 16:15

    Saw both recent games. Could have won both. Tuesday saw a dominant scrum, great in the lineout as I think we got more of theirs than they did and I think got all our own, and great kicking and overall composed, strong and tough play with some typical big tackles. There was a decent crowd but could have been better. Thing is that unless you are "in the know" it's not very easy to find out when a game is scheduled. It can't be found in most local media, and certainly isn't being trumpeted continuously as it should. The Rock has been a major sports success story. It should be followed more closely by our media. I'm sure I've missed games because I never knew it was on and living only a quick walk from the field I could either have planned before or just jumped up and gone. Upshot is the team has to do a better job with the media outlets, billboards, posters, etc. I have been to some of the games that had 4-5,000 fans. This makes for a great atmosphere, intimidation and support, and even for the away team a sense that this game means something to more than just the players. Even the away team should enjoy the feeling of importance in the competition and get more up for the game. And besides, it's a great and tough game, and everyone should have the opportunity to go to a game. But they need to know when!

  • Fred
    September 05, 2012 - 12:37

    In the know... First of all you obviously don't know much. The team is called "The Atlantic Rock" and is comprised of players from Montreal to Newfoundland. If you followed the game and read your game program you would know this. Other clubs don't have representation as much because either they are not good enough to play or decided they don't want to. I've played all sports and have played rugby for 20 years. The reason the rock wins is because they choose the best, not jump on the political band wagon. This team has been successful by winning multiple national titles and has their two loses this season has been less than 7 points, and this is deemed a rebuilding time for the team... Get you facts together before making silly comments.

    • Not a Swiler
      September 06, 2012 - 20:52

      You are right.. This is the "Atlantic Rock", but I guarantee you that this "Atlantic" team will never play in any other Atlantic city other than St. John's. Also, if there was talent left in NL to field a team to compete in the CRC, then it would be an all NL team. However, the skill level in NL rugby has dropped drastically because of these "Super Teams" that are put together because someone hates to lose. He would rather watch the club teams die than lose a "Rock" game. I also played for 20 years and also wore that jersey, but when it was all NL. I played when there was both A and B teams, and now I see that A league games are being cancelled because they can't field full squads. I blame this on one person and only one. The person that would rather see a great rugby player from NL be cut from the team because he had the chance to field Chauncey and Jebb. What do you think was going to happen when we had all the Rock capable players have no hopes in playing for their province because a certain someone manages to talk the "Atlantic" players to play? Now what you have is a desperate league of club rugby.

  • In The Know
    September 05, 2012 - 09:41

    Had the pleasure of watching both games this week, and actually have to say I am dissappointed. This clearly not a NL team. Parfrey and his cronies can brand it any way they want this is not a NL team, it is an eastern Canadian Team. They should not be called the Rock. As well when I was looking through the lineups, I was left to wonder where are the other two clubs. The NL portion of this team is really picked from two clubs, they will not succeed if they don't have the other two clubs involved. Either there is a distinct bias in regards to selection or their is a disconnect that has to be overcome.

  • Doug
    September 05, 2012 - 09:34

    Justin, the quality of fan support is not what it used to be. Years ago, it would be an intimidating experience for opposition to go to a Rock Game. Unfortunately the powers to be have turned the event in a politically correct event, and have decimated their home field advantage. In regards to the field. Lights would be nice. But the actual field is lacking. It is probably the worst field used by Rugby in the province. Mt Pearl is clearly the nicest field but lacks a club house. The old Torbay Rec Centre field is beautiful, but has zero ammenties - no club house, no stands, no bathrooms etc. The field used in CBS is beautiful as well and has tons of potential, but lacks stands.

  • Justin
    September 05, 2012 - 09:06

    Took in my first Rugby game last night and had a blast! The crowd that shows up is so passionate. However, I couldn't help but notice that the field is in need of some serious upgrades. It sure would be nice to have some lights for the field as well as an actual score clock.