Seen here in a home game earlier this season, Robin Gusse was one of several players lost to injury during the first half of last Saturday’s match at Bayside. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Cowichan Piggies nearly upset Bayside

Rugby team stays close to defending provincial champs

An upset victory was in sight for the Cowichan Piggies late in their First Division rugby match last Saturday, but some untimely errors led to a 40-20 win for the Bayside Sharks.

Just getting to the pitch and lasting 80 minutes, however, were successes on their own.

Cowichan scraped together a team for the road trip, bolstered by a couple of over-40s players who ended up being the heroes of the day. The Piggies lost five players to injuries by the end of the first half, however, and were playing with 14 men by the 35-minute mark.

The match was a scoreless tie for the first 23 minutes before Bayside slotted a penalty, then added an open-field try a few minutes later to go up 8-0. Cowichan got on the board with a penalty kick by Owen Wood, then suddenly found themselves down to 14 for the rest of the day. Bayside scored again as the game opened up, but the Piggies fought back.

“We worked the ball, found some holes and played our rugby,” Cowichan head coach Andrew Wright said.

Colten Smith scored a try right at the whistle, and with Wood’s convert, it was 13-10 for Bayside after 40 minutes.

“We were very optimistic,” Wright said. “The boys had some good chatter at halftime and got riled up.”

Bayside pressed out of the gate in the second half, taking penalty after penalty until Wood was able to slot one, and it was 13-13 four minutes into the second half. Bayside had the next two tries to make it 25-13, and then one of the over-40 additions, Grant Healey, took the ball at full-steam and powered through to score.

“[Healey] ended up playing all 80 minutes of rugby,” Wright noted. “And he and Louis [Gudmundseth], the two over-40s guys, were our Men of the Match.”

Another convert from Wood made it 25-20 with 10 minutes to play and the momentum clearly in Cowichan’s favour.

“It felt like we had that game,” Wright said. “The tides were turning.”

An unfortunate knock-on led to a turnover try for Bayside, who added two more tries after that to prevail 40-20.

The Piggies hope to get some of their injured players back for this Saturday’s road game against James Bay.

Meanwhile at home this weekend, the Cowichan women’s team hosts Nanaimo at 11:15 a.m. and the over-40 men (a.k.a. Nooky Woods) host the Northwest Old Boys at 1 p.m.

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