A tough challenge was faced head-on by the EMCS rugby team last Wednesday at Claremont Secondary in Saanich.
The host Spartans proved worthy of their first place ranking as they handed their visitors a defeat, albeit in a much closer contest than it seemed like it was going to be.
The weather and the setting could not have been more ideal for any type of field sport – sunny spring skies over thick, lush, dry natural grass. A handful of local fans were on hand to take in the action.
There were essentially two games played that day with each team winning one, only Claremont winning a little more decisively.
A 26-19 final score in Claremont’s favour was music to Sooke ears because at one point it was 26-0.
The home side had the scoring to itself in the first half with a pair of tries scored by the hard-running Nate Wade. Nolen Lah was one for two on his conversion attempts.
The Claremont juggernaut rolled on in the second half with the Spartans’ Lah going two for two in converts on tries by himself and Steve Aikenclose.
The Claremont players definitely had things their own way and what was likely a bit of overconfidence mixed with a spirited Sooke rally, very nearly cost them the game.
The clock, as it happened, would conspire to dash Sooke hopes and keep the western club winless after two games each versus SMUS and Claremont, plus one against Oak Bay.
The second half was already winding down by the time Wolverine Nick Pfeiffer broke the goose egg, seizing the initiative after the ball had been passed to the backs.
Pfeiffer broke a few tackles before making it around the end to paydirt. The convert was put through by Eric Albert – highest scoring player on the team
Dante Morandin was next to lug the leather to a scoring place, showing that persistence pays off by hammering the Claremont line after several previous hard crashes and finally putting it through. This time Albert’s conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
Zack Bryan topped off the offensive outburst with a carry of about 20 yards. Getting his hands on the ball which had been passed to the outside he started with a couple of inside moves and was able to fight off a few tackles before making his own scoring contribution – successfully converted by Albert.
Claremont coach Matt Belvedere was favourable in his post-game assessment of the Wolverines, indicating he was impressed by their play given that the school had not had a team in quite some time.
“I see they’ve done a good job, there’s some boys who are pretty excited about rugby,” said Belvedere.
“And I’ve heard they’re going to have a senior team next year so that’s good for rugby itself.”
“We did play a fantastic game,” described first-year rugby player Zack Bryan following the post-game handshakes.
“We put our hearts out in the second half. We could have put more into the beginning but we picked it up. I hope we get to play them again so we can show them what we’re truly made of.”
Bryan, who has more experience in football, appreciates the continuous momentum of the game and “how what happens on the field stays on the field. You don’t have any hate towards any other players afterwards. It brings you together a lot more as a team. With football you’ll have a star player, with rugby the team is the star.”
Coach Matt Mortenson expressed pride in the Sooke boys, revealing that the team was playing at a “AAA” level simply because no more appropriate competition had been available when the program got off the ground. Showing well against a traditional powerhouse such as Claremont put a broad grin on the coach’s face.
Mortenson mentioned a couple of players – Morgan D’Ganigian and Tyler Oleskiew – who had performed up to the calibre of earning berths in an upcoming week-long rugby camp at Shawnigan Lake. The coach said he can hardly wait for next season.
“A tough team… really good opponents,” said Nick Pfeiffer of the Claremont crew that had been perched atop the four team grouping that also included Oak Bay and St. Michaels University School.
Pfeiffer said if given a choice he would pick the slightly smaller SMUS team for its next adversary, but that said, he declared the guys on the squad would eagerly suit up against the Oak Bay team for a May 16 match.
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