After three weeks without playing due to a frozen turf and weather-related cancellations across the province, the Cowichan Piggies returned to the rugby pitch on March 2 for a battle with their Island rivals from Port Alberni.
Cowichan coach Andrew Wright admitted that Alberni carried the majority of the play, but the Piggies were still in contention right to the final whistle, with the Black Sheep taking a close 22-17 victory.
The Black Sheep actually arrived late to the match after their bus suffered a flat tire on the way, but the mechanical mishap failed to slow them down on the pitch.
“It didn’t deter their game plan,” Wright said.
Alberni came out of the gates strong and scored an open-field try in the first five minutes, missing the convert. The Piggies replied when they won a lineout in the Sheep’s end, then worked the ball around until Lucas Grosse was able to take it around the Alberni winger and over the line for his first Div. 1 men’s try. Owen Wood slotted the convert to give Cowichan a two-point lead.
Alberni added two more unconverted tries before halftime: one from a Cowichan turnover and the other off a set scrum.
“We have a couple of key players away fighting fires,” Wright noted. “And you could see that in our scrum.”
The Black Sheep were up 15-7 with 10 minutes to go in the first half when Tom (Turbo) Molyneaux recovered a turnover ball in the breakdown and ran about 40 metres to score under the posts. Wood’s conversion was good, and it was a one-point game at the break.
“It was definitely in our grasp at halftime,” Wright said. “We had some good discussion about what we needed to do.”
A penalty goal by Wood gave Cowichan a two-point lead 11 minutes into the second half, and the teams settled into a back-and-forth battle. Around the 27-minute mark of the second half, Port scored and added their first conversion of the day to go up 22-17. The Piggies responded by picking up the pace.
“We started to get into the game and pick our speed up,” Wright said. “Which we should have done earlier on.”
Although the Piggies were moving the ball forward, they made a couple of mistakes and Alberni finished the game with the ball in hand. Wright wasn’t disappointed with the effort.
“For not playing a game in three weeks and missing a couple of guys, it was a good game,” he said.
The Piggies still have a couple of games left, depending on how many cancelled matches can be made up, but that was their last scheduled home game.
“It was a bummer to go out on that result,” Wright admitted. “But that’s the way it goes.”
Cowichan had a bye this past weekend, and will head to the Mainland to face United this coming Saturday. For more information about the club or to sign up for the newsletter, visit cowichanrugby.ca