By Steph Crosier
Rugby rivals and strangers met Thursday at the high school COSSA Championships at Mary-Anne Sills Park.
Rivals this year are two teams from Lindsay. In the junior game the experience and speed of Lindsay Collegiate and Vocational Institute Spartans dominated I.E. Weldon Secondary School Wildcats 17-7.
Spartans’ coach Kevin Ray had high expectations for his junior team all year.
“We had a goal from the beginning of the year to win COSSA,” said Ray.
Rivals all year, the two teams have played four times against each other. Though the Wildcats are the defending champions two years running, every time they played this year, the Spartans won.
“We know these guys very well,” said Kirk Wilson of the Wildcats. “It’s a big rivalry in Lindsay just going to be who’s mentally focused and who’s ready to play 40 minutes of rugby. It’s going to be a good contest.
Ray credits the deepness, experience, and his forwards for the past wins.
“The team is very deep. We’ve got some key injuries but we’ve got lots of players that can fill in,” said Ray. “Quite a bit of experience too. With the club in Lindsay, we’ve got quite a few players that play club, so we’ve got lots of experience coming in. Being deep and having experience is important for sure. Our forwards have been dominating games. Our pack just won us a semi-final game they played incredible.”
Wilson was not worried before the game however. He called the past games very close and saidyou have to win the one that counts. To prepare for COSSA his team has been practising ruck and run plays and getting the ball out to their wingers.
“Good solid defence,” said Wilson. “Defence wins games. Defensive focus is what we’ve been hammering into them the entire season. Our backs are more athletic and they are bigger (than theirs). If we can play a wider game and keep the ball and push that into the backs we’ve got good chance to score on a play.”
During the game however, the Wildcats weren’t so wild and may have been too defensive. For most of the game the play was in the Weldon end of the field, and just less than nine minutes into the game, Dylan Needham of the Spartans scored their first try. At halftime the score was 12-0.
The Wildcats had the kick off for the second half but could not recover. The Spartans scored their third try with less than two minutes left in the game. Down but not out, the Wildcats’ Will Webster did an amazing run and broke the shutout for the Spartans.
Wilson said was proud of this team but saw the flaws.
“Our forwards were beat,” said Wilson. “ We couldn’t get it out to our backs.”
Ray was also very happy with the Spartans.
“ It was good,” said Ray. “I would have liked to shut them out for sure though. Them scoring in the last play of the game definitely wasn’t the best, but the guys played well. Our forwards again just carried us straight through it. Our defence was amazing today. They didn’t score till the end, and we were just gassed at the end. It was a great game. Its good to beat them every single time we play them. It always feels nice, they are our rivals.”
The tries for the Spartans were scored by, Dylan Needham, Hayden Ryan, and Mike Little. Conversions were made by kicker Brett Reeson.
The Spartans may have dominated the Wildcats in the junior game but the Fenelon Falls High School Falcons annihilated the Moira Secondary School Trojans in the senior game 33-8.
Local underdogs in the game, the Trojans had only 18 players. The normal AAA schools were a bit surprised to see them at the AAA championship. Trojan coach John Graszat kept the game plan simple.
“Go out, play hard, and we’ll see who wins,” said Graszat. “Really strategy isn’t much more than just, you know, keep possession of the ball. Go forward and just work hard.”
The Trojans did play hard but it wasn’t enough. At first the Trojans had control, scoring a three-point penalty early in the game. As if upset they were losing, the Falcons quickly took control. Rob Brouwer, the Fenelon Falls High School Falcons coach, had solid expectations for his team.
“If we play like we can we will win,” said Brouwer. “It’s just a question of playing to our potential. It’s the second year having a senior team at Fenelon Falls and we’ve come a long way, played some big wins but also some tough games so I think this is just a bit of a gut check hopefully some good things happen.”
The most noticeable advantage the Falcons had over the Trojans was size.
“We are fit and big,” said Brouwer. “The other team is big and not as fit.”
Brouwer said his team’s strength is its’ back. But during the game, there were a number of times where the Falcon forwards would take the ball and plough though the Trojan’s defence.
In the end, the Falcons took the game 33-8. Moira’s try by Matt Mulder and penalty kick and conversion by kicker Aaron Reid. Falcons’ tries by Phil Therien, Jeremy Lytle, Zac Dudmand, and two by Braedon Coy.
“Boys played hard,” said Graszat. “With the few numbers that we had it made it difficult for us to be competitive in the end, but the boys played with heart. And I can’t ask anymore than that from them.”
“I thought they played really well,” said Brouwer. “They stuck to the game plan and the dry weather really helped my team out. We’re a fast team, so quick ball, we played really well. We played a smart game, pretty happy with it.”
The most confusing thing for Brouwer though was why they were playing Moira in the first place.
“Its kind of surprising that team beat Centennial and we barely beat them,” said Brouwer. “Now we basically poured it to this team by 30 points. Surprising, but I’m pretty happy about it. I’m pretty sure my team is too.”