National Festival coverage
By Peter Diekmeyer
August 11, 2012
The National Rugby Festival teams returned to the Bishops University pitches today following a day off which players used to heal various bruises and prepare for the final rounds. Several out of province folk also took the opportunity to visit Montreal, two hours from Lennoxville, where the games are taking place.
The sweltering heat and humidity which hung over the round-robin portion is ever present, with passers-by that are carrying anything cold, either drinks, fruits or ice packs, almost in as much danger of being tackled as ball carriers. Logistically the tournament is going well, with tournament volunteers getting particular plaudits for their efforts.
British Columbia U16 men fight to advance to final
The two U16 British Columbia men’s teams squared off today for the second time in the tournament in a crucial semi-final contest. The game was a rematch between provincial rivals who grabbed two of the four semi-final spots in the division (the others were taken by Ontario1 and Ontario2). BC1 won the earlier meeting 12-0 and BC2 was expected to come out looking for payback.
BC1 got out of the gate early after Reagan O’Gorman scored a try on the team’s first sustained possession. Alexi Bonis scored another try shortly after and BC1 never gave up the lead, maintaining sustained possession and pressure throughout. BC1’s Cole Keffer stood out, making several plays including a key ball recovery and a series of timely tempo-changing intermediate runs, as did a BC1 kicker who scored the last points of the game on an impossible angle conversion.
With this 24-5 win BC1 advances undefeated to the gold medal round which will be played Sunday morning.
BC U18 men prevail 25-19 over Ontario1
British Columbia’s exceptional rugby program was on display again this morning with its U-18 men registering a strong come-from-behind 25-19 win over Ontario1 guaranteeing itself a spot in the final tomorrow.
The team was led by Fergus Hall who scored the crucial go-ahead first points of the game (a penalty kick) which he followed up later with a try that put British Columbia ahead 8-5. Ontario refused to buckle down though, bouncing back with a sustained onslaught which they managed to capitalize on completing two tries and conversions, bringing the score to 19-8.
But British Columbia had the last word. Hall showed up again by closing the game with two conversions and a second penalty kick.
British Columbia’s coach Jeff Williams signaled out Conner Hamilton for his work in stealing a couple of line outs as well as his rival team’s coaching staff. “Ontario played a fantastic game, really putting us on the ropes at one point,” said Williams. “They have clearly been watching us and managed to capitalize on several of our weaknesses. I am just glad that our guys pulled up their socks and came through in the end.”
Nova Scotia U18 women outclass Manitoba 7-5
Nova Scotia and Manitoba’s U18 women played some excellent rugby this morning with the former eventually prevailing 7-5 after a hard fought duel. The two clubs were both scoreless in the first half despite sustained intense pressure by Nova Scotia’s offense, which dominated possession time. Manitoba’s defence held out though, forcing several turnovers at key moments, none of which it was able to capitalize on.
Nova Scotia’s onslaught continued into the second half with the team finally getting on the scoreboard on a try by Rachel Chapman, whose effort particularly pleased coach Paula MacNeil.
“She not only scored at a key moment, but also played well defensively,” said MacNeil, who was less impressed with the Nova Scotia’s overall tournament performance. “We were hoping to finish in the top ranks of the second tier teams, but we are going to have to settle with picking up a learning experience.”
Manitoba like Nova Scotia, also did not make the medal rounds. According to coach Shawn Sarkonaki, this was in large part due to missed opportunities. For example Sarkonaki noted that against Nova Scotia his girls, who managed at one point to fight gamely to bring the game back within reach at 7-5 then threatened to take the lead by quickly running the ball back right back into the opposing team’s red zone, could not make the final push to get it across the line.
“We finished the round robin 1-3 but it easily could have been 3-1,” said Sarkonaki. “We have made some progress from last year, and our girls have really come together as a team. But we also need to capitalize on our chances.”
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