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Written By: Doug Crosse
The 2018 Canadian Rugby Championships are in the books and the juggernaut that is the Ontario Blues continues to impress.
Chris Silverthorn and his staff have been the most consistent performers of any CRC program in the last ten years. Time and again the Blues, with more than a little turnover from a player perspective, can mix and match squads, and be effective.
The Ontario Arrows program that was running concurrently with the Blues shows what is possible when a professional approach is taken.
The Blues had to work hard in their 22-17 win over an equally gregarious Rock team.
But it was a very flowing offense, quick ball handling, and staunch defending at key moments that showed what the Arrows might be like in a full season of Major League Rugby against US foes.
The other thing it showed an observing Kingsley Jones is that he needs to have access to some of the talent available in the Canadian Sevens program.
Both Andrew Coe and Lucas Campbell got on the score sheet despite not playing a ton of 15s in the last 18 months. They are quality finishers who don’t back away from one-on-one battles, because that is what's in front of them every minute of every game of sevens they play.
Kainoa Lloyd has proven he's ready to wear a Canadian jersey. A wing is badly needed with the recent retirement of Jeff Hassler. Are Lloyd and Hassler of the same vintage and model year? Not even close. But there are different ways to play the position, and Lloyd’s speed and ability to run the tightrope of the touch line is very effective – and will be needed going into the repechage.
BC 48 Wolf Pack 32
BC did well in their bronze medal match against the home side Wolf Pack in a 48-32 sizzler. What did Jones learn in this game? That the defensive structure was kicked to touch after the first ten minutes. This was like a game of basketball, and whoever scored in the final two minutes would be the winner.
Seriously though, the Bears did take this game by the scruff of the neck, with some unlikely heroes, including former sevens stalwart Sean Ferguson, Dustin Dubrovsky, and Aaron McLelland all scoring two tries each.
Jones will have liked seeing scrum-half Gordon McRorie performing well in stretches, and the Pack’s Pack were pretty good at times. There are more than a few forwards that will be wearing a Canada A jersey in South America, and possibly in France for the repechage.
The big question is, will this format of a national championship survive going forward? I think a more likely scenario would see the teams of the CRC continue to be regional talent developers; have the regional matches, but then serve a mixed squad up into the regional Major League Rugby squad. Toronto is all but in for the 2019 season and Vancouver was in at one point, but Rugby Canada could help revive that conversation.
Imagine squads created from the east and west divisions of the CRC. The Blues can – and have done this as the Arrows, proving to be very competitive.
There is room for the CRC in rugby’s future, but asking players to play big boy rugby in a two games over three days format is not going to net good results long term and is not good for the players period.