Fit Lions send Saints marching

Rugby: Foothills throttles top-ranked Calgary squad 48-22

By: Remy Greer

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 06:00 am

Foothills Lions scrum-half Reid Watkins fights through a Calgary Saints’ tackle during the Lions 48-22 romp on July 13 at the Calgary Rugby Union. The Lions have won two in a row and snapped Calgary’s four-game winning streak.
Foothills Lions scrum-half Reid Watkins fights through a Calgary Saints’ tackle during the Lions 48-22 romp on July 13 at the Calgary Rugby Union. The Lions have won two in a row and snapped Calgary’s four-game winning streak.
Remy Greer/OWW

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The Foothills Lions trained for a marathon to run away in a triumphant sprint.

Foothills’ commitment to conditioning shone through as it throttled the Calgary Saints, the top-ranked team in the Calgary Rugby Union, by a 48-22 score with a dominant second-half performance on a scorching hot Saturday in the Stampede City.

“We pretty much figured if we get into a track meet with any team our fitness is really going to kick in because we have pretty up-tempo training,” explained Lions club coach Jim Ryan. “If anyone wants to get into a game where they’re going to throw the ball around with us we’re very well equipped to do that.

“We set a great platform up-front in the engine room, the tight five, and really set everything. We stole five of their sets, if we’re winning our own ball in set pieces and taking some of their’s we think we’re going to be a very difficult team to beat.”

The Lions didn’t waste anytime getting on the board.

Inside 10 minutes club captain Spencer Watkins rumbled his way through the try zone off a penalty deep in the Saints zone. After Calgary answered back with a short score, Watkins was central to the Lions regaining the lead after Blake Barnert stole the ball on a line out, fed the Foothills skipper who in turn found Nathan Marquardt for an easy score.

They would double the lead when Watkins forced a turnover and found younger brother Reid Watkins in full flight and the athletic scrum-half did the rest, meandering in for a 70-yard score.

The latter would punch it in on the last play of the half as he found himself on the wing on the breakdown and turned on the jets, threw in a couple head fake dekes and stiff-armed an opponent into the try-zone to give Foothills a 20-10 advantage at the break with the Watkins show leading the parade.

“Those are pretty much our two best players and they can see some things that maybe some other guys don’t,” Ryan said. “They read the play well and cause a lot of disruption for the other team.

“And they’re both cold-blooded. When they get the ball on a turnover they’re not looking to do anything else other than score.”

Foothills added its fifth score of the contest with a little sandpaper as forward Scott Freethy bulldozed in for five points. Spencer Watkins added to the advantage when he was first to react to a loose ball on the scrum and ran in untouched from 80 yards out. Reid would add his third score of the contest when the Lions stole a scrum deep in Saints territory.

The Lions would complete the scoring with Spencer completing the hat-trick after being set up on a forced turnover from Barnert to put the finishing touches on the blowout victory.

“I think it was our fitness,” Reid Watkins said. “Jim has really had us running lots because of the hot weather, it’s only getting hotter and we need to be fit. Coming into this game we knew it was going to be a hot day, we were playing at high noon, our key focus was fitness and that’s what really gave us the advantage there.”

The victory snapped a four-game winning streak for the Saints (4-3) and vaulted the Lions near the top of the table with a 4-3 mark of their own.

A positive sign, but one that must remain in place for the duration of the summer season.

“We’re usually a contender, that’s what we’re used to, but I think it’s important for us to keep a number-one spot,” Watkins said. “We tend to fate out as the year goes by because players go back to school.

“It’s just keeping focused that we can always improve.”

Next up for the Lions is a date with the last-place Calgary Canadian Irish Athletic Club on July 19 in what is a big mismatch on paper. Opening kick-off for the second division tilt is 12 p.m. in NE Calgary.

For his part, Ryan isn’t getting caught up in scoreboard watching.

“We’re just going to look after ourselves. I don’t worry about anybody else,” Ryan said. “If we execute the way that I think we can execute, do what we’ve dovne the last two (games) we’re going to be very difficult to beat.”

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