Firsts fade away
Clansmen crush St. Albert in Ken Ann Cup north final
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 06:00 am
Ellerslie Rugby Park – Saturday's playoff humiliation marked the end of an era at the St. Albert Rugby Football Club.
St. Albert’s first 15 – winners of the 2007 Alberta Rugby Union second division championship, followed by four straight trips to the first division provincial final, highlighted by the first Labatt's Cup in club history in 2010 – were obliterated 61-15 by the Clansmen in the Ken Ann Cup playoff.
“I’m a little shocked at the outcome,” said a startled-looking Jake Robinson, after the fourth loss in five matches this year against St. Albert's bitter rivals. “I thought we would keep it tight and make it a close game but it is what it is.”
The last two years the firsts knocked off the Clan in the north final by scores of 22-12 and 20-17 for provincial berths.
“St. Albert took the wind out of our sails those two seasons and it’s nice we could put together a side to come out with a strong victory today,” said inside-centre Brodie Henderson, the Clan’s man of the match with four tries.
The Clan literally started the match with a bang. The players bolted through their fan tunnel onto the pitch with fireworks exploding before lighting up an error-prone St. Albert side in the second minute with Justin Law’s try from short distance on the wing.
“It definitely deflated us,” said Robinson, St. Albert’s scrumhalf. “It was a simple mistake and they capitalized right off the bat and that really set the tempo for their game.”
Play of the game
In the 22nd minute, and the Clan up by two converted tries, St. Albert turned the ball over the first time they crossed the Clan's 22-metre line. They lost possession while working it out to the wing and the ball was kicked forward for Law to scoop up and the Clan winger out-ran Matt Jarvis, St. Albert’s man of the match, down the touchline for the game-breaking try.
“That was the TSN turning point,” declared Henderson. “St. Albert was pressing on our five and we were dog tired. Everyone was gassed. As soon as he picked it up and ran it the field, that was a huge momentum swing.”
Three minutes later, Andrew Marsden’s penalty kick from outside the 22 left St. Albert trailing by 18.
At halftime it was a blowout at 33-3.
“We got some lucky bounces to start off the game that gave us momentum and we carried that momentum,” said Henderson, who has competed for Canada in 15s and 7s. “The rugby gods were on our side today.”
The mismatch mercifully ended four minutes after Henderson’s last try, the ninth by the Clan in the 80-minute debacle.
“Each one was another pin to the balloon,” Robinson said.
The defensive meltdown was stunning.
“We know the Clan is a great offensive team and they’re very solid up front, but I thought we would definitely come out and put in a stronger defensive effort,” Robinson said. “We were definitely trying to shut down their centres. We knew they would be a power there. I suppose it was just miscommunication.”
Robinson said St. Albert failed to execute its game plan.
“The warm-up was really good and we were all up for the game. We just came out and forgot what we were doing here. We worked on things a lot in practice and we just never brought that into the game.”
Robinson, 24, gave the St. Albert fans something to shout about with a try six minutes into the second half. Marsden kicked the conversion.
However, they were quickly drowned out by a boisterous Clan section when Warren De Bruin replied four minutes later by escaping a tackle in front of the 22 en route to the try area.
“You could hear our fans all game. They kept us firing,” Henderson said of the Clan faithful that shook the stands every time their team scored.
On the next try eight minutes later, almost every Clan player touched the ball during a punishing drive for points. The sixth conversion by George Bantin made it 45-10.
It was 52-10 when Adam Bontus scored St. Albert’s last try with eight minutes remaining.
The loss was the eighth in 14 matches this year, marking the first time the premier team finished the season with a losing record since 2006. The last four years since retiring to the first division after a one-year absence, St Albert suffered only 10 losses in 61 matches.
“It’s pretty disappointing,” Robinson said of the season-ending debacle. “We’ll get them next year.”
Year of the Clan
In the league table the Clan finished second at 8-4 and St. Albert was fourth at 5-7.
The Clan posted wins of 53-12 in week two, 18-16 on a game-ending penalty kick in July and 40-6 in St. Albert’s last match before the playoffs.
Five red cards were issued in the fight-filled July affair, including three to the Clan.
The only loss to St. Albert was 40-20 in June.
St. Albert won the right to play the Clan by beating the Strathcona Druids 37-25 in the north semifinal with basically the same line-up that dressed Saturday.
“We have a lot of respect for St. Albert. They’re a real good side. The scoreline today doesn’t reflect what kind of team they are,” said, Henderson, 28, a Vancouver product who played for the Pacific Tyee this summer in the Canadian Rugby Championship circuit.
The Clan will now battle the first-place Calgary Hornets, last year’s playoff winner, in Saturday’s final at 4 p.m. at Calgary Rugby Park.