Bears maul Lions in CRU action
By: Dave Whitfield
| Posted: Thursday, Aug 02, 2012 06:00 am
As happens often in sport, the Banff Bears Rugby Club broke open a game after being pressed hard by their opposition, Saturday (July 28) at the Banff Rec Grounds.
The Bears and Okotoks Lions clashed in a Calgary Rugby Union Division 2 match and the two teams spent the first 15 minutes or so testing each other’s defences and resolve.
In the end, though, Banff handed the Lions a 52-0 goose egg.
For about 15 minutes of the first half, the Bears and Lions battled more or less over ground in the middle third of the field, with Okotoks having the advantage of the wind behind them. At one point, though, as the Lions slowly surged into Banff territory, they managed to put the power to Banff, suddenly able to push the Bears off the ball in scrums two or three times.
With the Lions within 10 metres of the Banff goal line, though, Banff recovered its composure then struck downfield into the Lions’ zone, with Steve Lower finally punching in a try which he then converted.
Shortly after, and up 7-0, Bears’ team manager Mark “Hoops” Hooper broke a run for about 30 metres down the sideline. A couple of passes later and Hoops barged in for another try, again converted by Lower.
At that point, it was all over for the Lions, as Banff simply would not be denied on the offensive side of the ball.
At about the 35-minute mark of the first half, Hoops and Lower teamed up to power Banff in again. Lower put in the try, then converted with a kick from three metres inside the sideline to make it 14-0. On the day, Lower hit converts from pretty much anywhere the ball was placed, missing just twice.
As the half wore on, frustrated Lions players tried to take matters into their own hands with individual efforts which the Banff defence stymied.
At the half, on the strength of two more converted tries by Lower, Banff was riding high with a 28-0 lead.
The lopsided victory was, in part, due to an embarrassment of riches when it comes to manning the team. Unlike in past years, said Hooper, where the team had difficulties fielding a side because of players’ work commitments, this year, with an infusion of players who have moved up from Banff Community High School teams, the Bears actually have the luxury of rotating players through the lineup.
In fact, said Hooper, “some players that played 70 or 80 minutes in our last game didn’t play today. It’s not because they’re bad players, it’s just that we’re trying to give everyone a chance to play.
“Against the wind in the first half, we wanted to play the hard yards and play smart. The boys defended well and there was a lot of committed play. That zero? We like that, it shows real efforts by the boys.”
Hooper said on training nights, as many as 44 bodies will be on the field, readying for an upcoming game. “They’re making my job really hard,” he said. “We’re trying to be as fair as possible with who plays. I don’t care if you’re from England or Australia or Eastern Canada or Banff, everybody’s getting a chance to play.
“When the playoffs get closer, we’ll start selecting a tighter group to play. We want to see how people play under pressure.
“Having all these players is a godsend. In the past, with injuries and work, there was usually someone who wasn’t able to play.”
Also, for those fans who were at the game on Saturday, Banff was noticeable in another aspect. Thanks to the team’s sponsors, the Legion, Tommy’s Pub, Banff Avenue Brewing, Aurora and Wild Bill’s, the team is in full kit and no longer looks like they’ve suited up in hand-me-down uniforms.
In the second half of the game, with a brisk wind behind them, the Bears started where they left off against the Lions, on the attack.
Banff immediately struck to within four metres of the Lions goal line before being driven out. Through the second half, the Lions only made four skirmishes into the Banff half as the Bears kept the pressure on.
Hooper banged in another couple of tries, then late in the game, newcomers Brenton Fuller and Josh Bartlett struck for tries to round out the game at 52-0.
Banff has home games against Calgary’s Canucks on Aug. 11 and Lethbridge on Aug. 25.