National Festival coverage
August 9, 2012
By Peter Diekmeyer
After a day of settling in Wednesday at the impressive Bishops University facilities for a series of tough opening day games, competition heated up substantially on in day two, Thursday, as the sweltering heat, humidity and increased pressure and pushed up orneriness levels all around.
British Columbia 1 v. British Columbia 2 (U-16 men)
Already this early in the tournament there was a mini-showdown of sorts as the two British Columbia provincial rivals (both 2-0) in the U-16 men’s division, squared off this morning. The teams played a hard fought dual, battling for each yard, with BC1 eventually prevailing 12-0, led by Jack Nguyen who scored two tries.
The teams know each other well, having played more than a dozen games this year and having attended various staging camps together. Yet despite some tough battles, BC1 Co-coach Ken Erikson, and BC2 co-coach Curry Hitchborn insisted on being interviewed afterwards together. “We are glad that we did well,” said Erikson. “But it’s not just about winning, it’s about brotherhood and becoming better people. I think we took a big step in that direction.”
Hitchborn agreed. “There are a lot off scouts out here and our guys are all candidates to progress, but that is not our focus,” said Hitchborn. “Our focus is on developing our talent and moving forward one step at a time.”
British Columbia1 sweeps the round robin
The BC1 U16 men were in action again this afternoon looking to sweep the round robin portion of the festival which it did in style, pounding ON2 41-5. The game started out competitively with the teams tied at one point 5-5, but quickly turned into a rout, in large part due to BC1’s ability to capitalize on turnovers. “Our guys are thinking well and have good vision,” said coach Ken Erikson, of his team which is now 4-0. “They are also showing great poise by recovering quickly from key mistakes.”
Quebec v. Ontario2 (U-18 men)
Quebec, which started the tournament on a high note with a dramatic win against Ontario1, had their work cut out for them this morning as they lined up to face a tough and determined Ontario2 team, anxious to avenge their provincial counterparts’ defeat.
The game started well for Quebec, which came out of the gate applying a tough combination of ball possession and forward pressure that gradually looked to be wearing down the defenders. “Our strategy was to hit anything that moves whether it be a white jersey or a colored one,” joked Quebec’s coach Charles Goode. “And you could see it paying off.”
Quebec however inadvertently gave up its momentum after a series of three missed penalty kicks, which changed the tone of the game. Ontario then began really began to turn it on, eventually capitalizing on a try scored by Tristan Muir and pulling ahead 5-0.
That momentum continued until Quebec’s Andrew Milne broke the game open with a brilliant interception that he ran in for a try, which the team converted, taking a 7-5 lead. “He doesn’t look like much, with his slight build and shy demeanor but he has got tremendous anticipation,” said Goode admiringly, about Milne, who grew up in Singapore before coming to Canada and joining the Quebec team.
The win, which brings Quebec’s record to 3-0 puts the team in a strong position going forward. The hot and humid weather is proving to be a major factor at the festival, particularly for Quebec, which already has a home team advantage. According to Goode the team held a six day training camp in even hotter and more humid conditions, possibly gaining an additional advantage over other teams that trained in better weather.
Quebec v. Nova Scotia (U18 women)
Quebec’s U18 women split their first two games 1-1. So when they went up against Nova Scotia today, their minds were firmly fixed on getting back into positive territory. That they did, led by Anne-Laurence Harvey, who scored two tries, including the crucial first one, which gave them a lead that they would never relinquish.
According to Marie-Eve Gauvin, one of Quebec’s three co-coaches, the team has been making steady progress, which makes her quite optimistic going forward. “We are a new team, with a lot of new players that we have to integrate into our system,” said Gauvin. “That seems to be happening, which makes me quite hopeful going into our game with Manitoba this afternoon.”
Gauvin was also particularly effusive in her praise of Harvey, whose sister Magalie plays on the national team, and who has been on a tear in the tournament and one of the top scorers in her regular team. “She has great speed, strengths and footwork,” she notes, cautioning however: “But don’t forget it took a lot of girls to get her that ball. It was a real team effort.”
After a rough two days, the teams now have a day off to prepare for the festival’s conclusion, which will be played out on Saturday and Sunday.
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