Clan win on final kick
St. Albert flyhalf sent to hospital after violent match
By: Peter Boer
| Posted: Saturday, Jul 07, 2012 06:00 am
The Edmonton Clan played kick-to-win on the final minute of Thursday’s match against St. Albert’s starting 15 in a game that saw two brawls, five red cards and one St. Albert player carted off the field in an ambulance.
With St. Albert up 16-15 in the Alberta Cup match, the referee awarded the Clan a penalty kick that turned out to be the final play of the game. Having missed three previous penalty kicks, Clansman kicker George Bantin, whose kicking ritual raised the ire of the crowd, managed to split the posts to give the Clan an 18-15 win.
But as the final minutes played out, freshly arrived import flyhalf Antony Fitch, 18, lay in the Clan’s try area, having suffered a kick to the head after scoring St. Albert’s previous try with roughly 10 minutes remaining. An ambulance arrived and carted Fitch off the field after the game. He was released from University of Alberta Hospital with a concussion, according to St. Albert coach Gareth Scott.
“He’ll be out for two or three weeks,” said Scott, who visited Fitch Friday morning.
While the ref ruled the kick was accidental, when interviewed after the game, Scott said he and the team believed it was deliberate.
“It’s really unfortunate enough what happened to him there,” Scott said. “It’s so unnecessary. The game is tough enough without being cheap and dirty like that.”
Fitch also scored both of St. Albert’s tries, only one of which was converted. Both tries came in the second half.
Two brawls, one at the end of the first half and another at the beginning of the second, seemed to inspire the St. Albert squad, who were down 15-6 at the midway point. The first brawl erupted behind a ruck, out of the ref’s line of sight after players first exchanged kicks with their cleated shoes. A St. Albert player dragged a Clansman who had been kicking an opponent away from the ruck and two Clansmen promptly ran in to join the fray, which descended into a fistfight. John Maloney and a Clansman were both sent to the sin bin as a result.
But at the start of the second half another fight that broke out in the Clan backfield brought in every player on the field. Fullback Matt Herod ran in to try and rip a Clan player off of a teammate and was sucker-punched in the face.
“I haven’t taken a punch like that in quite some time,” Herod said, who was bleeding from beneath the eye after the game. “I came over to rip a guy off and when I looked up, I got hit.”
The refs cracked down on the spot, handing red cards to three Clansmen and two St. Albert players – Brett Kelly and Chris Butlin. All will face automatic suspensions as a result.
“You have to stick up for your teammates and I’ve got no problem with what happened and the ref resolved it the best he could,” said Scott.
The Clan dominated the first half of the game, scoring on a penalty kick and ripping a try off seven minutes in. St. Albert converted a penalty kick to narrow the gap but the Clan found the try area again before the half was over, taking a 15-6 lead.
But it was the two brawls that seemed to ignite St. Albert. Off a lineout, Fitch took a pass and busted down the right side, shaking at least two tackles on his way to the corner of the try area. The convert was unsuccessful, but narrowed the gap to 15-11.
A hard run following a missed Clan penalty kick gave Fitch the chance to score again. A few solid passes and one successful ruck sprung him again up the right side for the score. The convert missed, but Fitch stayed down after the try and didn’t move for the rest of the game.
That the Clan won on a penalty kick on the last play of the game was a particularly sore point for Scott.
“The fact we lost on the last kick of the game kind of stings, especially when I thought we had it,” Scott said.