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A Rock-hard result at Swilers pitch

It was bound to happen at some point, but the Newfoundland Rock’s first loss in Atlantic senior men’s rugby play in nearly 20 years Sunday still stung co-coach Simon Blanks.

Matthew Murphy of the Newfoundland Rock is swarmed by tacklers as tries to carry the ball through a wall of Nova Scotia defenders during the Atlantic Rugby championship play Sunday afternoon at the Swilers Rugby Club pitch.

“Doesn’t make a difference if it’s two years or 20 years,” Blanks said. “I hate losing.”

The injury-riddled Rock — minus seven regulars, most of whom suit up for the Atlantic Rock regional squad in Canadian Rugby Championship — lost a two-point decision, 18-16, to Nova Scotia in the Atlantic rugby championship at the Swilers Rugby Club in St. John’s.

Newfoundland held the Atlantic title since 1998.

The Nova Scotians “completely” deserved the win, said Blanks, after going hard at it in the training room for the past three months.

And therein was part of the problem for Newfoundland, he said.

“We had a very poor training period,” he said.

“But,” Blanks added, “I can’t really blame them (Rock players) in some sense. They can’t be expected to train like a pro athlete to play two games (The Rock won the Atlantic tournament opener on Friday, beating New Brunswick 28-5).

“That’s it for the Newfoundland Rock now. Now, they play club rugby. We simply don’t play enough, and that goes right up the ladder to the national team.”

The Atlantic Rock — made up of players from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec — begins play in the CRC July 22 against the Ontario Blues in Truro, N.S. Then it’s a couple of games in Calgary in August against the B.C. Bears and Prairie Wolf Pack, and that’s it, with the exception of playoffs.

As for the loss in Sunday’s Atlantic final, Blanks — who is co-coach of the Rock with Pat Parfrey — is hoping for the “proper” reaction from a “very apathetic” Rock team.

“For years, the bull’s eye was on us,” he said. “Now the bull’s eye is on Nova Scotia. And we have to put in the effort to get the title back.

“We’ll get back on track … I hope.”

Nova Scotia made it a clean sweep on the weekend, winning the Atlantic under-23 title as well at Swilers, beating the Newfoundland Rock under-23s and Atlantic Rock under-19s over the weekend.


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