Ravens Fall To UVic 36-31 - Report by Peter MacDonald
On a pleasant day at Jericho the Ravens were reminded of some not so unpleasant rugby truths by the UVic Vikes in an exciting but frustrating game for the Raven players and their supporters. Playing to a game plan with structure and patterns, defending consistently well and in particular “protecting the pill” are necessary elements of winning rugby. The Ravens fell short in these areas on Saturday and let slip a game they could have won.
The Ravens started well and were off to a 13-0 lead early on the strength of a Harjun Gill ramble for a try through the UVic backs that was all too easy and likely got the attention of UVic coach Doug Tait and two penalty kicks and a conversion from Adam McQueen. UVic answered at 25 minutes with lock Gavin Kratz driving low from the edge of a ruck for the try, 13-7. After a successful Ravens penalty kick the students kept up the pressure and, moments after UVic were held up in goal, Kratz drove in again for a second try, 16-14 Ravens at 37 minutes. Before the half though, the Ravens answered from a lineout when hooker Alex Mascott finished off some nice handling by taking a gap and powering in to ring up a 23-14 halftime score.
The UVic #10 Gradyn Bowd left the game early in the half with a leg injury moving fullback Brennig Prevost to flyhalf and bringing Liam Mahon onto the wing. The Ravens lost prop Chris Taylor just before halftime with Paul Ahn subbing in for him. It was clear this was going to continue to be a wide open game on a dry field and it was unclear whether that would be a good thing for the home team. Clarity would be obtained in short order.
Shortly after the kickoff the Ravens were inside the UVic 22 when they lost possession and the Vikes backs moved the ball quickly to the right to free up scrum half James Pitblado for a long run down the right sideline for a counterattacking try, 23-19 Ravens. At 46 minutes the Ravens then had a pass intercepted and soon it was Pitblado to Mahon for an overlap try in the left corner, 26-23 Vikes. At this point one would hope that there would be a regrouping and a chat about ball retention but it was going to get worse.
For the rest of the game the Ravens would have plenty of ball and territorial advantage but the turnovers kept on coming. As Harjun Gill was being brought down near the line he backhanded the ball and the Vikes picked up. Winger Jeff Vreys made a nice break but his pass back hit the ground, possession lost. Knockons, poor passes, balls lost in contact, phases constantly fizzling out with unforced errors, it was hard to watch.
But despite these shortcomings the game was still in the balance till the end. The teams exchanged penalty kicks and then the Ravens took the lead at 65 minutes when #8 Karl Moran and prop Marc Belvedere carried the ball on directly before the ball moved wide left to Vreys who finished strongly, 31-29 Ravens. The lead was short lived as UVic’s Prevost picked up from a ruck, spied a gap and made his way smoothly forward 40 metres before laying off to a support player for a well taken try, 36-31 Vikes.
The Ravens kept bringing it till the end and unfortunately had a sure try knocked on in goal at 75 minutes. But a win was not to be and at the final whistle UVic celebrated theirs and their good play since Christmas.
There were plenty of good performances by the Raven players. Alex Mascott’s home debut went very well, Adam McQueen was excellent with the boot accounting for 16 of the 31 points and the back row put in another hard game with David O’Donoghue hanging in there after a hard blow to the shoulder and Simon Etheve laying his body on the line again and picking up a concussion unfortunately. The lineouts, set scrums and kickoffs were fine, it was the big bits in between that need to tighten up.
For UVic Kratz, Prevost and Pitblado stood out. Kratz appears to be an old school hard man lock while Prevost is a skilled player very comfortable kicking, passing and reading the game. Both had a big impact on the game. Pitblado drives the bus, gives leadership and is a threat running with the ball. The front row is big and the back row is full of energy. With a set of backs that has speed and pedigree UVic will be a handful in the playoffs.
The Rippers won again knocking off the Norseman 40-27 making it four in a row since Christmas and climbing into a playoff position. Next up it is Caps at home in two weeks.