Lions bury familiar foe

Rugby: Foothills picks up second win of the season over Saracens

By: Remy Greer

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jun 04, 2014 06:00 am

Foothills Lion flanker Blake Barnert fights off a tackle during the Lions’ 36-24 win over the Calgary Saracens on May 31 in Okotoks.
Foothills Lion flanker Blake Barnert fights off a tackle during the Lions’ 36-24 win over the Calgary Saracens on May 31 in Okotoks.
Remy Greer/OWW

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Familiarity breeds contempt.

It has also produced two wins in the month of May for the Foothills Lions over the Calgary Saracens, the latest meeting a 36-24 triumph in Okotoks on a blustery Saturday afternoon.

“The boys came out all fired up especially because we want to hold these guys because we had a comeback victory last time we played them,” said Lions flanker Blake Barnert. “We were wanting to make sure that we keep that winning streak going against these guys.

“In our warm-up, everyone was fired up and ready to go.”

The preparation paid immediate dividends on the pitch.

Foothills built itself a commanding 21-0 lead inside 30 minutes.

Scrum-half Reid Watkins set himself up for the opening score as he booted the ball deep and, on the ensuing scramble near the try-zone, punched it in from short distance.

The Lions would double their lead moments later as the scrum-half dished the ball off a scrum to older brother Spencer Watkins who rumbled in from five yards out. The latter would add his second score of the half in remarkable fashion as he collected a loose ball at midfield and broke free for a highlight-reel try leaving several Saracens in his wake.

Calgary got on the scoreboard via its own stud. No. 10 Ryan Wilkes used his feet for a blistering run before booting the ball down pitch and recovering it in the try-zone. The Saracens quickly added another score off a penalty deep in the Lions zone to cut the lead to 21-12 with just moments left in the half.

Foothills took advantage of every second on the clock and rescued some momentum via their own kicking game as Jarrett Richardson chipped the ball into the back of the try-zone for Barnert to touch down and increase the lead to 26-12.

“Me and (Jarrett) communicated and he made a nice chip kick into the corner and I just managed to beat the other guy there,” Barnert said. “Tuesday and Thursday practice we worked on our kicking a lot and it was definitely something we needed to improve on.”

The Lions opened the second half the same as the first with its offence at the forefront. Powerful running from hulking forward Jordan Smith set up the on-charging Matthew Hodgson for a 30-yard scamper to pay dirt.

After the Saracens answered with a try of their own, Smith put the game out of reach with a trademark goal-line run on something of a set play off a Calgary penalty.

“This year we finally started putting in set-ups off penalties,” said Smith. “We’ll mix it up depending on the situation, but the call came from Jim (head coach Jim Ryan) for my pod to run it in and it worked out.”

Calgary would find some late consolation in the form of a short-yardage try to cut the deficit to 12 with just six minutes left as the Lions then worked the clock to see out the comfortable win.

The victory improved the Lions’ record to 2-1. Foothills’ bounce back performance comes on the heels of its disappointing home opening defeat at the hands of the Calgary Rams seven days prior.

“We had to keep our heads in it because the same thing happened with the Rams game last week. We were coming off the victory against these guys (Saracens) and we’re kind of big headed about it,” Smith added. “We’re happy about this win, but at the same time this game is over and now we have to play as if it’s a brand new game.”

The Lions hit the road next weekend for a date with the Lethbridge Rugby Club on June 7. Foothills returns to its home pitch one week later when it clashes with the Red Deer Titans on June 14. Opening kick-off is 1 p.m. at John Paul II Collegiate.

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