Hornets sting Lions on last-second kick

Rugby: Foothills coughs up big lead to lose second in a row

By: Remy Greer

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014 06:00 am

Foothills Lion Cody Thompson looks to strip the ball from a Calgary Hornet during a ruck in Calgary Rugby Union second division action on Aug. 23 at John Paul II Collegiate. The Hornets won 27-25 on a free-kick to end the contest.
Foothills Lion Cody Thompson looks to strip the ball from a Calgary Hornet during a ruck in Calgary Rugby Union second division action on Aug. 23 at John Paul II Collegiate. The Hornets won 27-25 on a free-kick to end the contest.
Remy Greer/OWW

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One yellow card, 14 players and one absolutely calamitous finish.

The Foothills Lions saw their eight-point lead in the final two minutes disintegrate as the Calgary Hornets rallied with a try and last-second free kick to steal the 27-25 victory from the jaws of defeat, Saturday at John Paul II Collegiate.

“It was a devastating loss,” said a frustrated Lions club coach Jim Ryan following the result. “We didn’t secure the ball. We were up eight and our scrum-half tried to throw the ball around and they pick it off and go in and score. We kick off to them, they march down the field and we take a stupid penalty.”

A loss few would have forecasted as the Lions led throughout and never truly looked in danger of relinquishing before the late-stage collapse.

Foothills boasted an 11-5 advantage at the restart on the strength of two free-kicks from Dan Larson and a terrific display of teamwork from Spencer Watkins and Jamie Irving leading to a support try from Blake Barnert late in the first half.

“I just saw a gap so I hit it and heard Blake screaming,” said Irving. “He was the only one with me so I got into contact and popped it to him and off he went.”

The Hornets were buzzing to start the second half and were quickly rewarded with a short score from the left flank to trim the deficit to 11-10.

Foothills bounced back on the subsequent kickoff when Watkins picked off an errant Calgary pass and scampered untouched into the try zone from 40 yards out. Calgary cancelled out the try with one of their own as well as a convert to cut the hosts’ lead to 18-17 with 11 minutes on the clock.

Furthermore, on the defensive stand Lions scrum-half Reid Watkins was handed a yellow card, leaving Foothills one man down in the waning moments of the contest.

Sensing the game slipping away from their grasp, the Lions got to work on an insurance plan. It arrived in the form of club captain Spencer Watkins who was set up again by Irving, the second-year No. 8 player enjoying some of his best form with the Senior men’s outfit.

Foothills’ festive spirit took a turn for the worse as the clock slipped under two minutes.

Calgary took advantage of a Foothills miscue at midfield to punch in a late try to make the score 25-24 Foothills. The Lions were forced to then kick-off to the visitors who quickly scampered down pitch, drew a penalty and hit an easy free-kick through the uprights to complete the shocking comeback.

The coach didn’t use the shorthanded situation as an excuse.

“You can play 14 against 15, we scored,” Ryan said. “It’s not hard. We made that adjustment and countered that. We were just idiotic with the ball. We’re up eight with the ball and our replacement scrum-half tries to do something expansive instead of just having the forwards go straight ahead.”

“I’m devastated right now. It’s an idiotic play and it has probably cost a playoff bye.”

Foothills’ second straight loss drops it to 6-5 and out of a share of first-place in the Calgary Rugby Union’s second division.

Compounding matters is the calendar.

The Lions are set to lose two key contributors as they go back to university. Star scrum-half Reid Watkins is off to the Vancouver-based Simon Fraser University with hard-hitting forward Branden Powell off to Queen’s University in Kingston.

“We’ve got to get back on the training pitch and go over it,” Ryan added. “We’re losing two more guys to university so we’ve got to switch some guys around and hopefully come up with some answers.”

Foothills’ final test of the regular season is Sept. 6 on the road versus the Red Deer Titans.

For more information on the Lions go to foothillslionsrugbyclub.com


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