Lions claw back to keep streak alive
Rugby: Foothills earns come from behind victory over Canucks
Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 06:00 am
It’s going to take something special to derail this locomotive.
Facing a two-score deficit moments after the restart the Foothills Lions scratched and clawed their way back to a 24-19 road victory over the Calgary Canucks on Saturday on the heels of three straight wins of the blowout variety.
“That was definitely a pivotal point because it was either we give up on them or we keep going there,” said Lions club captain Spencer Watkins. “A couple of the guys were pretty negative off the bat, but then there was some positive chatter in the back.”
Trailing 12-0 after Calgary scored seconds after the second-half kick-off, the Lions showed their claws in bouncing back with a robust score of their own.
After the Canucks held their ground with a seemingly endless goal-line stand, Watkins ensured the Lions’ persistence paid off.
“Usually we run a penalty play where we cross it over, but on that one they had some small guys that I thought I could run through,” he said. “They were a bit unorganized, they were looking all over the place and I just smashed it in there, wasn’t really any finesse or anything.”
Foothills went back to the well to take its first lead of the game. Big-bodied forward Patrick Kerby bulldozed his way into the try zone following yet another ferocious defensive stand from the hosts.
The Lions added to the advantage in opportunistic fashion taking advantage of a shorthanded Canucks team as Calgary was forced to play two men down due to a pair of yellow cards.
Flanker Cody Thompson was first to a loose ball off a botched line-out, sprung forward down the left flank and off-loaded to former Foothills Falcon teammate Jamie Irving for a short score.
“We read the field a little bit better,” the captain added on the second-half surge. “There were a lot of times where, especially when they had two guys dropped because of those penalties, their back line-up over on the wing we had three people overlap.
“That was anybody’s game. At the end of the game I even asked the ref ‘who won?’”
Buoyed by the return of its penalized duo, Calgary didn’t waste anytime evening the score. The Canucks would find room on the right flank as explosive back J.R. Ruffin, a two-time Grey Cup champion and former defensive back in the CFL, set up a teammate with an easy offload for five points plus the convert.
The celebrations would prove short lived for the rambunctious Calgary crowd.
Undisciplined play would come back to bite the Canucks again as Foothills scored what would hold up as the game-winner on a Calgary penalty. The Lions swiftly worked the ball left to right to No. 10 Nathan Marquardt who caught the Canucks backs sleeping and ventured into the try zone from five yards out.
Foothills’ fourth win in a row improved its record to 6-3 to maintain its spot at the apex of the Calgary Rugby Union’s second division.
“Defensively they (the Canucks) were if not the hardest team one of the hardest teams we’ve played, all of them were great in their tackles,” Watkins said. “They definitely beat us in the rucks, we were pretty even in the scrums as well.”
“Physically they’re one of those teams we expect to see towards the end of the season.”
Referencing a potential playoff showdown with the steely Calgary club, the Lions get another crack at the Canucks in mid-August on home soil.
Following a bye week, the Lions return to the friendly confines of Okotoks’ John Paul II Collegiate field on Saturday Aug. 9 for their first home contest in six weeks.
Foothills welcomes the Calgary Hornets for the first time this season. Kick-off is 12 p.m.
For more information go to foothillslionsrugbyclub.com