Knights bronzed at provincials
Rugby: Furious second-half comeback gets HTA on the podium
Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014 06:00 am
Adversity was no match for the Holy Trinity Academy Knights.
After narrowly missing out on a spot in the final, the Knights capped off a legendary defensive stand to stuff the Lethbridge Collegiate Institute Rams for a 15-14 victory to take the bronze medal at the Tier I Rugby Provincial Championships, Saturday in Calgary.
“The boys were beat up from (Friday), they were emotionally drained and physically drained because we lost on kicks,” said Knights head coach Joe Buck. “You could see that, they were tired at the beginning of this game and really had to regroup, their heads were down.
“This team, you might knock them down, but they’re going to get back up and battle to the bitter end. That perseverance of theirs, I couldn’t be prouder as a coach.”
After opening the tournament with a 10-0 shutout of Medicine Hat High, the Knights’ gold medal dreams were dashed in their 11-10 loss on kicks to the W.P. Wagner Warriors.
“That was very tough, but we knew if we almost won that game then we could win this (bronze medal) one,” said Knights scrum-half Jazz Singh. “We came in confident and had belief.”
The Rams did their best to stuff such belief down the throats of the Knights, missing stud back Cristian Sprague, as the Lethbridge school opened proceedings in dominant fashion, living up to its name with bulldozing interior running leading to an early try.
HTA would bounce back off a penalty as captain Riley Westhaver found Singh on the run for a diving score to cut the lead to 7-5.
LCI would beat the first-half clock with an interception deep in the Knights zone to carry a 14-5 advantage into the break.
A pair of substitutions provided a major boost in the forward ranks as the Knights’ low tackling helped to stem the tide versus the physical Rams side as did a red-card to LCI late in the first-half.
“We put Cian Booth in and he brought some physicality to us and at the half we put Christian Nori in, a senior who hasn’t had a lot of time, but he’s been raring to go and prove himself,” Buck said. “Christian Nori proved himself today, he was fantastic, he gave us that little spark.
“They put the pressure on us, they played us with 14-men, so it was tough on them.”
The Knights scrum-half trimmed the deficit to 14-10 when he was quick to knock-on and before the Rams could react dove in for five-points.
Singh completed the comeback with his third score of the game as he found daylight on the left wing on a feed from Westhaver and carried three Rams tacklers with him into the try zone.
“I saw the gap and said ‘Westy left’ and we always have good synergy together so he heard me and sent it back and I hit the gap,” said Singh. “They had a lot of guys holding on to my jersey and I just had to pump the legs to get in.”
The Rams counterpunched immediately with less than 10 minutes on the clock to rescue a victory and swiftly moved to within striking distance of scoring.
That’s when they met an impenetrable fortress.
HTA hooker Lewis Green, responsible for hooking the ball backwards with his feet in a scrum, stepped up and delivered under pressure as the primary catalyst for the Knights’ terrific defensive stand in the final five minutes.
“It’s nerve-wracking because everyone is relying on me to keep it out of our end and then kick it out because the time was going down,” said Green, named the Knights’ man of the match. “If they did score we wouldn’t have enough time to get back in the game and if we did get a penalty and they kicked through the posts we would have lost.”
After a seemingly endless stand of goal line tackles and victorious scrums, the final whistle blew and the elated Knights feverishly celebrated the remarkable triumph.
“The intensity that we played at it really did pay off in the end,” Green said. “Unfortunately we lost our game (Friday), it wasn’t meant to be. So winning bronze was nice.”
Calgary’s Western Canada took home the Tier I provincial title, prevailing over W.P. Wagner in a seesaw final.
Lethbridge’s Winston Churchill Bulldogs hunted down the Banff Bears to win the Tier II provincial championship.
For more information go to asaa.ca