Special to the Tribune/Advisor
A gray and rainy morning gave way to an afternoon of gentle breeze and sun as the Williams Lake Rustlers hosted the Prince George Gnats in the opening game of the 2014 Interior Rugby Union season.
The Ottoman Road ground was in top condition thanks to the close attentions of Mother Nature, a donation of expert mowing services, and hard work by club volunteers Roy Argue and Ben Fulton.
Rugby against the Gnats is always a tough, physical affair.
This match was no different — strong respect shown by both sides for their opposite numbers.
Initial phases revealed the rapid and relentless pace of the Rustlers game, with the Gnats backed into their own 22. Excellent ball production by the tight five forwards created opportunity for quick hands to the wing, with Sky Freeman putting down the first try after six minutes play.
The Gnats enjoyed an edge in scrum re-starts, the Rustlers being rusty at first with their ball handling. But under sustained pressure, the Gnats conceded a scrum to the Rustlers, leading to a try by Beau Parker. Tactical kicking by the Gnats caused some concern for the Rustlers during the remainder of the first half, though the score line was held.
Bolstered by fresh legs for the second half, the Rustlers showed it would be a long afternoon for the Gnats, as Doug Fraser ended a long phase of great passing to touch down under the posts a few minutes after the re-start. Another try came soon after with Nathan Stewart feeding Beau Parker from a set scrum for his second score. Soon after, Stewart was beneficiary of the Rustler’s sharp ball movement, which left him romping from mid-field for a try under the posts.
Jeff Ramage laid down a cute execution of kick and chase, catching the Gnats fullback in his own end zone while pilfering the ball for another try. Jordan Bernier finished the afternoon with a long scramble from mid-field for a try in the corner. With three tries converted, the final was Williams Lake 41, the Gnats, 0.
The Rustlers club executive voiced pride in the team’s work, with director Brendon Pritchard heartily thanking the whole squad for their commitment. The strong connection of the club with high school rugby showed itself in several former students taking notable roles in the game’s outcome.
Jared Rossette (Dog Creek), Evan Rankin (150 Mile) and Eric Smith (Big Lake) brought youthful spirit into the game, blunting the point of the Gnats’ attacks with strong tackles. Jordan Pritchard used exemplary ball distribution to free Rustlers on attacking runs. The return of Billy Parker, to join brother Ryan, brought knowing smiles to Rustler Old Boys; the young guns truly relieving the older guard in riding the herd.
Next weekend sees the Rustlers on the road to Terrace, and on June 7, a rematch on the road against Prince George.
Mark yourself a reminder to travel up to Ottoman Road for the Stampede Rugby Tournament on Stampede weekend. Two days of near endless rugby, with top clubs from around B.C. and northern Alberta competing for the coveted Buckle.
English rugby is also coming July 14-17, as Merchant Taylor’s School tours our community.
Please contact Rodger Stewart at 250-296-4295 or Todd Pritchard at 250-398-5568 if your household could join our community in billeting one or more of the 44 English lads for three nights.