© —Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
Atlantic Rock scrum half Mike Simpson (right) passes the ball past Mike Hamson to Frank Walsh (left) during an attack against the Wolverines from Cork, Ireland in an international friendly played recently at the Swilers Complex in St. John’s. The Rock take on Ontario Blues today in Ottawa to begin their play in the 2014 Canadian Rugby Championshp (CRC) league.
Newfoundland-based team looks to end three-year slump as 2014 season begins
The Atlantic Rock will be looking to regain some of its once impressive form this weekend when they take on three-time defending Canadian Rugby Championship (CRC) league champion Ontario Blues today.
The match will be played six o’clock at Twin Elm Rugby Park in South Nepean, Ottawa, Ont.
The Rock won the MacTier Cup in 2010, but have struggled since then, finishing last this past season with a 1-4 record while posting a 2-3 records in the three previous campaigns.
Rock director and co-coach Pat Parfrey said the team is in the third year of a five-year plan to win another national championship and acknowledged “We had a poor season last year.”
“We lost badly out west, but we played Ontario close in a pair of games,” said Parfrey,
The Rock will compete this season against Ontario, the British Columbia Bears, who play out of the Apple Bowl in Kelowna, and the Prairie Wolf Pack out of Calgary Alta., for the MacTier Cup.
The 2014 CRC schedule will have each team play a home-and-home series against each of their three opponents for a total of six games.
In previous years, all teams played just five games for a complete season.
The Rock starts the season with three away games and finishes with three home games at Swilers Complex.
“We’re younger this year and fitter, but with less experience,” said Parfrey. “However, we’ve developed an under-19 program which we’ve added to the senior program, so we are optimistic we’ll develop a team with potential.”
Parfrey said there are no easy games and if the season opener is any indication, he’s right.
The Prairie Wolf Pack opened the Canadian Rugby Champion campaign last weekend with a decisive 31-10 victory over the Bears before a crowd of about 2,000 at Calgary Rugby Park.
It was a surprise outcome for some in the rugby community as the Bears, who won the CRC title in 2009, had defeated the Uruguayan national team 21-20 in the pre-season.
The Rock will be without several star players this weekend including standout flanker Kevin Parfrey who tore his pectoralis major muscle and is out for the season. Robert Wilson is attending a wedding and Jason Picco has work commitments.
Canadian team members Ciaran Hearn and Chauncey O’Toole may be available in September.
The CRC leads into the annual Americas Rugby Championship, which sees Canada’s Men’s ‘A’ Team take on USA ‘A’, Argentina ‘A’ and Uruguay whereby players are selected for the annual November Tour Internationals.
The Rock lost 38-33 to Ontario an 29-24 to Ireland’s Cork Wolverines in pre-season play.