The first upset of the Canadian Rugby Championship was delivered in its first game as British Columbia downed The Rock 43-19. Last year’s champions were matched up front by a fierce and determined BC pack but and had no answer for the scything runs and slick passing of their opponents.
In perfect conditions for attacking rugby at Klahanie Park in North Vancouver, BC got off to a blistering start and The Rock struggled to keep up throughout. By the time the final whistle was blown BC had crossed the line six times for a resounding victory that also secured vital bonus points.
Head coach for The Rock, Pat Parfrey felt his forwards were the equal of BC but conceded that they “were beaten by the better team.”
BC, Parfrey added, “got off to a rapid start and scored three tries in the first 25 minutes. Their backs had great pace and movement and really punished us. Nathan Hirayama, (Esava) Nakulanisa, (Josefa) Dolesau, and Conor Trainor were fantastic.”
The Rock briefly held the lead when their flyhalf Dean Blanks slotted a penalty but Trainor and Hirayama, who are both World Cup bound, turned the tie on its head with a try and conversion, respectively. The home side were tagged back to 7-6 before they went 17 points unanswered thanks to tries from Dolesau and Hirayama. Hirayama added a penalty to make it 24-6 before Rock fullback Morgan Lovell sniped through to reduce arrears to 24-11 at halftime.
If The Rock were hoping to bounce back after the break, a series of sloppy lineout giveaways quelled their ambitions. Their renowned pack was being made fight for every inch and, when BC’s Eric Wilson fed the ball back from scrumhalf, they opened up. Trainor was on the end of another swift passing move and scored his second try of the game.
“Defensively I think our forwards won the game for us inside,” said Wilson. “They set up some great ball for the backs and we have some great runners that we put into space.”
Geoff Warden provided a chink of light for the visitors with a surging run for a try and Blanks added a penalty but BC would not be denied. Their flanker Josh Clarke sprinted half the field to touch down in the far right corner. The home supporters were in ecstasy but the cheering was not done as winger Esava Nakulanisa touched down after bursting through for try number six.
The Rock will look to bounce back on Tuesday when they play the Prairie Wolf Pack in Calgary and they have a few injury problems that will see a re-jig in the lineup.
BC will face Ontario Blues next and head coach Kris de Scossa will be eager for his young side to build on an encouraging start.
"I have said going into this year that we were going to be a performance-based team and that was a great performance from our players," De Scossa said. "We are still the underdogs but we can take a lot away from that result."
Tries: Trainor 2, Dolesau, Hirayama, Clarke, Nakulanisa
Convs: Hirayama 5
The Rock: 19
Tries: Lovell, Warden
Pens: Dean Blanks 3