A Good Day for Rugby! Bays Defeat Lomas and Evening Fundraiser
by Phil Meyer
Saturday at MacDonald Park starts well. Sunshine, seemingly too-long gone from our shores filtering strong through drifting cloud - – winds wafting gentle from mysterious eastern climes – grass (or mostly grass) underfoot. A goodly group of Navy Blue supporters attendant.
Festivities start at 11:00 AM. Meralomas bring excited Under-14 rugby kids across on (for them) an exciting early overseas ferry ride. The Bays respond in kind. A game is played – full of innocence – love of sport, and this “new game”. Lomas prevail: 40-something to 30-something at the end. For JBAA, this represents a tipping point. Thanks to long, sometimes hard, hours by Canada’s Tommy Woods (girls) and Jared Barker (boys), second generation Bay, Brad Underwood, Mini’s leader Dan Beattie – and a bevy of newly hatched other parents/supporters - this is the first year in many when there are more kids than adult players on the field at James Bay. This is a mirror of our past – a path toward our future.
The men’s Premier Reserve game follows. Jake (McGruff) Slobodian bulls over to give the Bays a lead at 14 minutes – converted by Thomas Burton. Lomas score a converted try 10 minutes on to pull even. Then a second Orange try at the beat of half time overcomes a Burton penalty goal. Lomas 12 – Bays 10 at the half.
Lomas extend their edge with two unconverted trys in Half Two. Ollie Briggs responds for the Bays, who spend oodles of time at the Loma goal line, but are unable to figure out how to score more. At the end, Lomas 22, still safe in second place in league standings – JBAA 15, and hoping for sixth.
Prior to the Premier game, bookmakers are having a field day. Bays well ahead of Lomas in BCRU standings – but six of their number (depending on how you count) down in Santiago, Canada vs. Chile – and (presumably) enjoying post game Pena Coladas. Who might win here at home?
Lomas carry the first 15 minutes – pressuring the Bays; Navy Blue, led by fullback Elliot Mitrou, playing assured defence. Then strong running by Graham Harriman begins to turn the tide. Clayton Meeres finishes a multi-pass back attack, surging across the line of goal. Mitrou converts. JBAA 7 – Lomas 0.
A feature of Coach Pete Rushton’s designer lineups this season – “can beat anyone one week – can lose to anyone the next” – depending on those lost or injured – has been the play of Kieran McAuley. Kieran, up from Premier Reserve, has played strong rugby around the back row for the Prems – but complains about not managing to score any trys. Today, “availabilities” (or lack thereof) see him start at inside center. Spectators note Kieran has a modicum of speed – is a hard runner to bring down – and when defence is his turn, delivers serious tackles. And so, a brilliant outside shift from Guillaume Caillaux down the left sideline – a pass to McAuley, who powers in for his season’s first score.
Eight minutes before the half, another hard run down the left sideline – McAuley scores his second. At the half, JBAA 17 – Meralomas zero.
Nine minutes gone in half two, Bays now playing down slope - McAuley bursts through again, Mitrou continues the charge, passes to Thomas Burton, who scores. Benj Cottle scores back for Lomas. JBAA now 22 – Lomas 5.
Ten minutes from full time, McAuley gets his third. Following Blue Crush pressure, he achieves his “hat”, grabbing a quick back pass at the Orange goal. Mitrou converts. One minute from time, Blake van Heyningen kicks a loose ball 20 meters downfield from the base of a Loma ruck, setting up Ed Adams for a final Navy Blue score. A second Loma try from Cottle at the final whistle, converted by Mike Hall, fails to stem the difference. At the end, JBAA 34 – Meralomas 12.
This game featured the two most winning teams in BCRU championship history: Bays with 25 – Lomas with 13. It was hard, clean and well controlled. They rest for Vancouver International Sevens next weekend – then Bays host Thunderbirds – and Lomas will be home to Vikes.
Following post-game congrats, the usual boat race, and Loma’s departure for their back-home ferry ride, one hundred-ish members of the JBAA family journey a few blocks up Simcoe St. to Heron Rock Bistro – where proprietor and JBAA Olde Star Andrew Moffatt joins Bays’ President John de Goede in presenting the West Coast debut of The Beefsteak. With costs of playing rugby seemingly doing nothing but increase, this is a new effort to raise significant funds for JBAA travel – and other needs.
The Beefsteak is new to our West Coast – but not to North America – having originated in New Jersey and New York some seventy years ago. The idea is that groups of men – in these modern times, accompanied by strong women – gather to devour bison tongues and other beef delights, washed down with pitchers of beer! So you have beef, butter, salt, potatoes, bread, beer – all your major food groups! It is a Vegan nightmare! Attendees were strongly advised not to eat the bread and potatoes – so as to save more belly space for the beef and beer!
No utensils – just fingers – are used. Each attendee was issued a full-cover apron. When I asked for a napkin, I received a dubious stare instead. “Yo Philly, wipe your fingers on your apron!”
At start, we were unsure if this new initiative would work. Does it ever! It’s a sellout! Ghosts from prior days waft in. In the corner of one booth, Sonny Vickery, JBAA Elder amongst those attending, sits with members of his clan. World-acclaimed rugger Hans de Goede, with Brother John, lead us in “Oh Canada” to start. Han’s wife Stephanie White, former Canada player, JBAA Women’s Coach, recent inductee into Canada’s Rugby Hall of Fame, was there. Present coaches Pete Rushton and Canada’s Sean White prop up the bar. Other ghosts from past triumph – including Dave Ramsay, Hugo Belanger, Nolan Miles, Andrew Wray, and likely several others, lost in the mists of my seventh beer, appear. John Lyall, VIRU President, and Leader of Vancouver Island Thunder attends with his wife. This sport gathering is not restricted to rugby. Heidi Woods and Marilyn Campbell, former Olympic Rowers for Canada are here.
John de Goede calls out the names of JBAA Canada’s down in Santiago, who have prevailed against Chile on this same day. Wild applause! Phil Mack, Noah Barker, Cole Keith, Pat Parfrey, Lucas Rumbol and Luke Campbell – recognised along with his parents, Marilyn and Howie, with us this night in the room. (Howie, former long-time head of the U Vic Rowing Program, proudly spends the evening introducing himself as “Luke’s dad”.)
Wife Nancy sums up. “You can feel the power in the room”!
Toward evening’s end, I am defeated – by beef and beer – and then more beer and more beef. Nancy drives me home. In all, a good rugby day.