Rock rallies for first win of the CRC season

Kenn Oliver
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Downs Prairie Wolf Pack 16-14 at Swilers

The Rock’s Owen Parfrey secures the ball as he is tackled to the ground as teammates Justin Meyers (to his immediate right) and Kevin Parfrey (left) support during Canadian Rugby Championship action against the Prairie Wolf Pack Saturday at the Swilers Complex in St John’s.

After enduring a challenging first half, The Rock mounted a second-half comeback to defeat the Prairie Wolf Pack 16-14 in Canadian Rugby Championship action Saturday afternoon in St. John’s.

Head coach Simon Blanks says while soggy playing conditions at the Swilers Complex led to a lot of dropped balls — “We seemed to have the majority of them in the opening gambit,” he adds — a referee’s call in the first half led directly to the Wolf Pack’s first score, a try from Duncan McGuire.

“We felt, and certainly after reviewing the video, one of the Rock players was impeded after he had made a kick. He couldn’t chase it from the ensuing catch, no penalty was awarded and the Wolf Pack ran in an easy score,” said Blanks.

After Dean Blanks kicked his first of three penalty kicks on the day, bringing the Rock within four points, the Wolf Pack’s Tyler Hawes further extended the visitors’ lead by successfully charging down a Patrick Parfrey clearing kick and “jumped on it for the score.”

Despite “dominating territory and possession,” The Rock wasn’t able to score when opportunities presented themselves in the first frame.

“We were over the line four times, but it was wonderful defence by the Wolf Pack where we couldn’t actually ground the ball,” said Blanks, who nonetheless felt that one of the attempts should have counted as a score.

The Wolf Pack took a 14-3 lead into halftime, but it was all Rock once the teams took to the pitch for the second half.

Dean Blanks’ second penalty from 42-metres narrowed the margin to 14-6. Then Mike Simpson scored a try with Blanks adding a successful conversion that left the Rock down 14-13. Not long after Toni Wodziki was red-carded for punching a Wolf Pack player, reducing the home side to 14 players, Blanks kicked his third penalty to put the Rock up 16-14. Dean Blanks missed four more penalty attempts before time expired.

“We really limited their opportunities to score in the second half to zero. Which was pretty impressive and a massive step forward in terms of our defence from last year,” Simon Blanks said.

“It appeared that we were the fitter team on the day and if we were able to actually maintain our discipline and composure and keep knocking on the door that eventually the scores would come. We were quite delighted with the boys.”

Wodziki will face a judicial hearing, and Blanks says the suspension could be anywhere from two to nine weeks. Though he adds that mitigating factors, including Wodziki’s “unblemished record,” are taken into account and could reduce the penalty to one week.

This was the first of two meetings with the Wolf Pack. The teams face each other again Friday in Calgary.

With Wodziki’s impending suspension and the loss of Brad Lester to a broken hand, along with the Wolf Pack possibly benefitting from the return of national team player Andrew Tiederman, Blanks admits the task in the rematch is a massive one.

“That’s two of our heavier scrummagers (who will be unavailable Friday), so what was a potent weapon for us in the first game, with the addition of Tiederman for them, it could have a big impact,” he said.

Ciaran Hearn, whom Blanks says was Canada’s best player against the U.S., won’t be made available for The Rock as Rugby Canada is resting players who play on both the 15 and 7-aside national squads.

koliver@thetelegram.com

Twitter@telykenn

Geographic location: Canada, U.S.

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