Rock CRC entry getting some valuable prep time against visiting international team
Ellis Grey (right) of the Wolfhounds tries to run down the Swilers’ Patrick McNicholas as McNicholas carries the ball during a rugby exhibition match at the Swilers Complex in St. John’s Tuesday evening. The Wolfhounds, whose lineup included seven players from Great Britain, eked out a 47-46 win. — Photo by Kenn Oliver/The Telegram
The Wolfhounds, an invitational rugby team whose lineup includes some elite players from the United Kingdom, took to the pitch to take on the Swilers Tuesday as part of the Rock development program for this year’s Canadian Rugby Championship (CRC).
And while Tuesday’s game was a spirited affair, Pat Parfrey says Saturday’s second matchup, when the Wolfhounds will take on the core of the team that Parfrey’s Rock will take into the CRC competition, promises to be even better.
“There was some tackling, but there wasn’t enough of it,” the veteran mentor said after the Swilers’ 47-46 loss.
“The Swilers played well in the first half. In the second, when they got weakened by some of the players having to come off, the Wolfhounds got stronger and scored on the last play of the game and the conversion won it.
“There’s some guys coming in, so both teams will be strengthened when they play again. It’ll be a pretty good game.”
Joining the Rock side for the Saturday contest, 3 p.m. at the Swilers Rugby Complex, are Quebec’s Bryce Thomassin, P.E.I., native Kyle Baillie, and Kevin Parfrey, the coach’s son who is coming home from Halifax for the game.
The Wolfhounds’ lineup will be bolstered by Quebec’s Toni Wodzicki, and Alex Forrest (P.E.I.),
The ad-hoc Wolfhounds roster included four players from Cork Constitution, an Irish Division 1 club — Cathal O’Flaherty, Graeme Lawlor, Daragh Lyons and Patrick Parfey. The latter is not coach Parfrey’s son, but a nephew from Ireland who helped identify some players for the trip.
The team also featured three players from the South Wales Premiership circuit in Jon Lewis, Tom Aviss, and Will Evans. The rest of the squad was made up of Mike Hamson and Ellis Grey from Halifax, and locals Frank Walsh, Alex Marshall, Chris Hammond, and Jason Picco.
“We were intending to take the Rock on a trip to Britain around this time as prep for the CRC, but airfares were so expensive that we couldn’t afford to go with 30 guys,” Parfrey explains. “So we thought maybe we’d try to get some guys from over there to come here.
It’s good training for the Rock, but not as beneficial as the trip across the pond would have been, he says.
“An invitation team is not as well constructed as what a club team would be, but it’s pretty good. It’s the best we could do with the money we’ve got.”
The Rock will open is CRC preparation camp on Thursday, with final team selections made after Saturday’s game. The Rock open the against the Ontario Blues, Aug. 17, at Sherwood Forest Park in Toronto.
“We’re hoping the majority of the team that’s playing for the Rock on Saturday will be the team that will play against Ontario,” says Parfrey.
“I think one of the concentrations at the camp will be getting our defence and tackling improved.”
With the World Cup qualifiers taking place the same weekend, Parfrey expects the Rock “to be more competitive this year.”
“Ontario will have more players in that Canadian squad than we will, so compared to last year they’ll be a bit weaker and we’ll be a bit stronger.”