Defence trumps offence in scoreless tie
Stalemate between Paul Kane and Sturgeon in high school men's rugby
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, May 03, 2014 06:00 am
Pirates Rugby Club – In a match both teams refused to lose, the Paul Kane Blues and Sturgeon Spirits played their hearts out in a scoreless draw in Wednesday’s confrontation in metro Edmonton division one men’s rugby.
The pool B tussle also kicked off the league fixtures for the provincial contenders.
“It was a hard-fought battle. Both teams played well,” said Sturgeon captain Jacob Kaup.
Paul Kane hooker Nathan Yue agreed.
“It was definitely a forward type of game,” Yue said. “We knew it was going to be a hard game right off the bat because Sturgeon’s got some real solid players and good athletes. Unfortunately we couldn’t grab the win but we had a blast.”
Opportunities for tries were in short supply with the majority of the contest staged between the 22-metre lines.
“Paul Kane had good tackling today and we couldn’t break the line. They played a good game,” said Kaup, a Grade 12 scrum-half.
“For us it was just a series of mistakes in the breakdown,” Yue added. “We kind of got a little too caught up doing fancy plays but if we kept it simple we might have been able to sneak a try in.”
There were plenty of positives for both sides despite the lack of points.
“Our forwards played pretty good and our backs were pretty good too. It was a good game by everybody, we just couldn’t get the W,” Kaup said.
“As a team we were sticking our tackles,” Yue noted. “Our backs also did a great job at spreading out. A lot of times we tend to stay bunched in but we knew coming into the game that we would need to have all of our guys spread out because Sturgeon likes to spin it out and get it wide.”
Back and forth
In the first quarter Paul Kane pressured Sturgeon early but the Spirits eventually reversed their field position with a slow and methodical drive that put the Blues on their back foot for a long time.
The quarter ended with Sturgeon fumbling the ball away deep in Paul Kane territory and a kick for touch by the Blues on a penalty to the Spirits resulted in a lineout ball outside the 22-metre line.
Three minutes into the second quarter Logan Petty of Sturgeon was carded for a sin-bin infraction and with the man advantage Paul Kane pushed the Spirits back towards their try line with a series of pick-and-go plays.
Before the sin-bin penalty expired, and Paul Kane pushing forward, Graeme Loerke scrambled towards the five-metre line before the Spirits stuck him into the pitch. Sturgeon would later relieve the pressure with Kaup’s kick for touch after a Sturgeon scrum.
With Sturgeon at full strength Paul Kane captain Austen McDonald blocked a kick from in front of the try line by Chad Brenneis but despite a valiant effort the Grade 12 eight-man was unable to track the ball down before it bounced out of the try area with three minutes left until halftime.
In the third quarter a combination of sloppy ball handling and penalties in scoring range left Paul Kane spinning its wheels. Darek Skinner of Sturgeon also stole a lineout ball outside the 22 to briefly regain possession and a few minutes later a run by Kaup gave the Spirits some breathing room.
Before quarter time a series of penalties in Sturgeon’s end prevented Paul Kane from driving closer to the try line.
Sturgeon ramped up its attack to start the fourth quarter as Paul Kane scrambled to dig in defensively. The breaks also went Paul Kane’s way with a couple of penalties to Sturgeon in prime field position.
The back-and-forth affair continued with a rare breakthrough by Paul Kane to split Sturgeon’s defensive line but Connor McIntyre was wrestled to the pitch from behind a few feet away from the try line. Sturgeon was then awarded the ball on a penalty.
The Spirits would go on to rattle off some lengthy runs before the final whistle as Paul Kane pulled off some clutch tackles to prevent the Spirits from going the distance.
“It was a real close game. Both teams played tough,” said Yue, a Grade 12 battering ram into contact.
Sturgeon and Paul Kane were coming off winning performances at the Lynn Davies pre-season tournament last weekend in Sherwood Park. Sturgeon won the championship by beating Central Memorial 26-5 and Paul Kane defeated Bowness in the B final after kicking off the tournament with a loss to W.P. Wagner.
In league play Sturgeon is gunning for its third championship in four years after winning back-to-back premier (now division one) titles in 2011 and 2012. The team’s only loss last year was to the St. Francis Xavier Rams in the final.
“We hope to make it to the final and continue on our legacy of being a good team for sure,” said Kaup, 18, a third-year rugby player and standout guard for the 2014 3A provincial basketball consolation champions.
Yue, 17, believes Paul Kane’s veteran lineup will benefit from an injection of young talent after last year’s early playoff exit in premier.
“We have a lot of experienced guys but with so many of our backs injured its really a good opportunity for our first years and our newer guys to step up to the plate,” said Yue, a key cog for the undefeated U17 St. Albert juniors last year in the Edmonton Rugby Union.
Next week Sturgeon plays the Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds (1-0) on Wednesday and Paul Kane tackles the J. Percy Page Panthers (0-1). Game times are 4:45 p.m. at Ellerslie Rugby Park.