Inexperienced Banff rugby squad drops home opener
The bark of the scrum-half, the crunch of bones and the smell of barbecued beef wafting from the Banff Rec Grounds can only mean one thing: Banff men’s rugby is back in the Bow Valley.
In front of hundreds of boisterous fans, the newly-named Banff Bears Rugby squad dropped its home opener 37-7 to the Calgary Saracens on Saturday (May 26).
The teams played to a 7-7 deadlock through the first half, as Banff’s defence was up to every test thrown at them by the well-schooled Saracens squad, which dropped down a division from last year.
The game was much closer than the score indicated, as a late collapse by the home side allowed the Saracens to run up the score.
“It was silly mistakes,” said team manager Mark ‘Hoops’ Hooper. “There was lots of emotion around the game and a lot of pressure.”
Bolstered by an army of new players, the Banff side fell behind early, however, Hooper rectified the situation, barreling in for a try off a goal line scrum in the dying minutes of the first half.
But in the second half, Banff’s inexperience became evident and the Saracens capitalized. Every missed tackle or turnover ended up as a try for the Calgary team, and the Bears were unable to regain composure.
“We’ve got a lot of younger players on the team and they’re not used to being behind. They’re not used to digging in to pull out of those spots,” Hooper said. “There were a lot of silly mistakes, but we’re going in the right direction.”
Hooper saw lots of positives and noted several veterans such as Steve Lower, Simon McDonald and Sinclair Hunt had particularly strong games, however, the consistent effort was missing. Banff doesn’t lose at home very often.
“As good as the defence was, we need to play for 80 minutes,” Hooper said.
The club is poised for a strong season. About 40 players showed up for tryouts this season, including several members from last year’s BCHS provincial champion team.
“We had a lot of new faces and we’re in great shape,” Hooper said. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm around the team, and we’re 2-1 in our first three games against tough opponents.”
Two of Banff’s Division 2 games thus far have come against former Division 1 squads.
Many of the new faces are born-and-raised Banff residents, adding to the stable of strong local players. Hooper said the perception is the team is made up of Aussies, Kiwis and Brits, but that’s not the case.
“It’s nice that some of our local players, like Michael Fernie, are standing out. There is a long tradition of rugby in Banff,” Hooper said.
The team did play with a heavy heart following the death of long-time rugby supporter and Banff resident Michael Skrine. Skrine hardly ever missed a match and was a diehard supporter of his son Cody’s play on the pitch.
The team’s next home game is June 9 at 2 p.m. at the Rec Grounds.
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