Written By: Doug Crosse

The 2018 CRC tournament weekend is an enticing affair because the regional competitions leading up to the finals did not adhere to the form book.

Indeed, for the first time in recent memory, everyone is coming into the competition relatively equal, with 1 and 1 records.

In the East, it was the Atlantic Rock taking top seed, though Ontario will point out it was on a technicality. Either way, there is a great deal of parity in both the east and west squads.

ROCK v WOLF PACK

The Rock take on the Wolf Pack and feature a lineup with a generous mix of representation from all the contributing provincial unions. It is fair to say that in years past the Rock squad would be a predominantly Newfoundland-based team, with some Quebec and New Brunswick players thrown in.

In the matches against Ontario, the Rock completed what a lot of folks would consider an upset, downing the Blues 34-22 in a well-attended match in Montreal. In the return contest a few days later in Ontario, the Blues reversed the result with a 22-9 win, but managed its match under the expectation that it was aggregate score and not bonus points in play. In fact, the 2018 rules still showed it was the bonus point system that would determine a winner from the two-game series. Disappointing for all involved, but the Rock got the top seed in this weekend’s semi-final match.

In terms of competitiveness, the western qualifier matches held the same amount of intrigue, with the Prairie squad taking a tight contest in Calgary 27-24 before falling to the Bears at Capilano 39-20. So, on paper, the Wolf Pack are the number two seed in the West, but in reality, there is not a lot of wiggle room once you factor home-pitch advantage.

The big story for the Wolf Pack is the return of Gordon McRorie to active duty. His abilities around the park and place-kicking make him an important tool for the Lobos. On the downside, the Pack has lost Canadian Internationals Hubert Buydens and Nick Blevins.

Ben Lesage has been impressive this summer, and can bang past the gain line routinely from the outside centre spot.

The Rock are featuring a well-drilled and speedy backline with Jordan Wilson-Ross partnering with Josh Campbell.

Kyle Baillie in the back row, working with the two Matts – Heaton and Murphy – will limit opposition runs from Grant Crowell to allow McRorie to kick over the top or offer straight service to fly-half Robbie Povey.

Prediction: The Wolf Pack in a close one. McRorie’s place-kicking could be the difference in this one.

The match will be live-streamed on Rugby Canada's Facebook Page found at https://www.facebook.com/RugbyCanada/

ATLANTIC ROCK

Forwards: 1 Alex Forrest, 2 Martial Lagain (capt.), 3 Cole Keith, 4 Brad Lester, 5 Liam Carter, 6 Kyle Baillie, 7 Matt Heaton, 8 Matt Murphy,
Backs: 9 Graham Barry, 10 Patrick Parfrey, 11 Aidan McMullan, 12 Jordan Wilson-Ross, 13 Josh Campbell, 14 Paddy McNicholas, 15 Cooper Coats
Replacements: 16 Owen Parfrey, 17 Frank Walsh, 18 Jordon Power, 19 Lucas Hotton, 20 Zac Coughlan, 21 Moe Abdelmonem, 22 Tony Pomroy, 23 Maxime Perreault-Brière

 

PRAIRIE WOLF PACK

Forwards: 1 Logan Jones, 2 Gabriel Kajdy, 3 Ryan Kotlewski, 4 Conor Turner, 5 Riley Fahlman, 6 Kyle Morrison, 7 Jordan Roberts, 8 Grant Crowell,
Backs: 9 Gordon McRorie, 10 Robbie Povey, 11 Cole Davis, 12 Gradyn Bowd, 13 Ben LeSage (capt.), 14 Mozac Samson, 15 Cam Hall
Replacements: 16 Wayde Hodgen, 17 Jake Horton, 18 Marko Klimenko, 19 Josh Schlebach, 20 Joshua Pritchett, 21 Brock Gallaher, 22 Dalton Campbell, 23 James Buchanan
Venue: Calgary Rugby Park
Date: Thursday, August 23 – Today!
Kickoff: 19:00 local (18:00 Pacific, 21:00 EST  22:00 Atlantic)
 

BLUES v BEARS

The Ontario Blues come in as the number two seed, but as noted above, could easily have been in top spot if they had gone for another try instead of a penalty kick.

A couple of things work in Ontario’s favour. This team is essentially the Ontario Arrows – and vice versa. This group has already played a compelling trial season taking on Major League Rugby teams, possible MLR teams, and Canada Selects in a pair of games. That is a lot of prep time compared to what the Bears have had.

DJ Sears Duru in the front row, with captain Rob Brouwer, Lucas Rumball in the back row, and second row Paul Ciulini offer up a potent pack.

In the backs, Shawn Windsor at fly-half and a centre pairing of Jamie Leveridge and Andrew Coe make for interesting possibilities. Throw in a couple of effective wings in Johnny Sheridan and Kainoa Lloyd, with sevens stalwart Lucas Hammond, and there is a lot of play-making ability in the backline.

The Bears enjoy size in the pack with Barker, Ng, and Murray in the front row, and Captain Luke Campbell at No. 8.

James Pitblado at scrum-half working with Guiseppe du Toit could experience some growing pains. Du Toit is being shifted from centre to the 10 spot as needed by the Canada A coaches. He needs to be left in one spot and try to prosper from there.

The Bears bench could prove to be important, with buckets of experience and some new faces as well.

Prediction: The cohesion of this Ontario team over the past few months will be the difference. Look for a tight game through the hour mark before the Blues pull away.

The match will be live-streamed on Rugby Canada's Facebook Page found at https://www.facebook.com/RugbyCanada/  

BC BEARS

Forwards: 1 Noah Barker, 2 Steven Ng, 3 Liam Murray, 4 Shea Wakefield, 5 Mike Finnemore, 6 Dustin Dobravsky, 7 Nathan Stewart, 8 Luke Campbell (capt.),
Backs: 9 James Pitblado, 10 Guiseppe du Toit, 11 Isaac Kaay, 12 Mike Nieuwenhuysen, 13 Doug Fraser, 14 Jared Douglas, 15 Sean Ferguson
Replacements: 16 Blake van Heyningen, 17 John Braddock, 18 Nik Hildebrand, 19 Travis Larsen, 20 Ollie Nott, 21 Jorden Sandover-Best, 22 Josh Thiel, 23 Aaron McLelland

ONTARIO BLUES

Forwards:  1 Djustice Sears-Duru, 2 AJ Quattrin, 3 Rob Brouwer (capt.), 4 Paul Ciulini, 5 Kolby Francis, 6 Peter Milazzo, 7 Marcello Wainwright, 8 Lucas Rumball,
Backs: 9 Andrew Ferguson, 10 Shawn Windsor, 11 Johnny Sheridan, 12 Jamie Leveridge, 13 Andrew Coe, 14 Kainoa Lloyd, 15 Lucas Hammond
Replacements: 16 Eric Howard, 17 Roman Cao-Riquelme, 18 Doug Wooldridge, 19 Josh van Horne, 20 Ben Jones, 21 Riley DiNardo, 22 Mitch Richardson, 23 Kieron Martin
Venue: Calgary Rugby Park
Date: Thursday, August 23 – Today!
Kickoff: 17:00 local (16:00 Pacific, 19:00 EST)

 

 

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