Ellerslie Rugby Park – The fantastic firsts of St. Albert pounded the Lep/Tigers into the pitch during Saturday’s powerful performance in Alberta Cup rugby.
The premier men made the LTs look like a third division team while running in 12 tries in the 74-0 bombardment.
“We had a good game plan going in and we managed to stick to it and when we do that we tend to put up a pretty good score,” said Brad Angove, winger for the 3-0 first 15.
The firsts piled up 34 points in the first half on six tries and two conversions against the winless LTs, who have returned to the premier ranks after an absence of several years.
In the second half the firsts emptied the bench so everybody could join in the fun.
“Everyone stepped up today,” said outside-centre Adam Higgins. “That game just showed the commitment the guys are having this year. Everyone has bought into what Jo (Hull, the head coach) want us to do this year.”
The firsts also pulled off a rare shutout as the LTs threatened only a couple of times in scoring range. A defensive blockade stopped the LTs within spitting distance of the try area with under 15 minutes left in the first half and the firsts up by 22. In the second half, and the firsts on top by 53, the LTs were unable to crack the try line despite several attempts against a heavily fortified defence before turning the ball over on a penalty.
“As a (defensive) line we all stepped up and it was really good to see,” Higgins said. “We don’t see any reason why anyone should be crossing our line. That’s one of our main goals this season. Defence has been a big thing in training and we’ve really stepped that up this year.”
On offence the firsts were hotter than a pistol in a pawn shop as they assaulted the LTs with wave after wave of unrelenting pressure.
“That’s what we’re looking to do, even on defence we’re an attacking force this season. Everything is at pace and up-tempo and you’re going to see a lot more of it,” Higgins said.
It took only eight minutes for the firsts to draw first blood as standoff Adam Gowing finished off an adventurous run by fullback Shea O’Hallahan with a clever fake pass inside the 22-metre line for a try under the posts.
Gowing kicked his own conversion. The former Strathcona Druids’ standout was 5-for-10 on conversions and second-half substitute Antony Fitch converted the team’s last two tries.
Three minutes later O’Hallahan, an impressive newcomer from New Zealand who isn’t listed as an import because his mom is a Canadian, befuddled the LTs with another majestic run for points on a play set up by Mitch Millett from the backs.
Jason Carton, an Irish import at prop, scored the team’s third try in the 20th minute. Strong running by Higgins put Carton in position to score.
On the ensuing kick off to the firsts, Angove flew past the LTs with blazing speed into the try area. After touching the ball down he was mobbed by teammates as the St. Albert supporters cheered in delight.
Angove, 24, refused to toot his own horn over the terrific try.
“I didn’t take it back myself. Shea gave me a beautiful little offload and I think I had Blake (Mitchell) outside of me driving their guy. I basically just had to run forward,” said the last year’s recipient of the team’s most effort/least recognition award.
The next try was orchestrated by O’Hallahan, who alertly tracked down a kick that took an Argo bounce towards the firsts around the 22. O’Hallahan swooped in to grab the ball in front of a startled-looking LT player and shifted into a higher gear in the race towards the try area. He was tackled short of the try line, but presented a gift ball for forward Johnny Moloney to dive in under the posts.
In the 38th minute Millett’s dash resulted in a try.
The first half ended with a penalty kick by the LTs that missed the posts.
In the second half Irish import Conor Power, an inside-centre, rattled the LTs with two tries in the opening 18 minutes.
Angove’s second try and Gowing’s conversion made it 53-0 in the 55th minute.
Tries by Higgins (a lengthy romp after a strong defensive stand by the firsts), Fitch and Matt Jarvis (second-half substitute) rounded out the scoring.
Higgins, 23, said the firsts didn’t take the lowly LTs for granted after coming off one of the most important victories in years – 24-23 over the Calgary Hornets in Cow Town to put the brakes on an eight-game losing streak to the perennial Labatt’s Cup provincial champions.
“It’s great to beat the Hornets, but no matter who the opposition is we take them one by one. We’re not taking anyone easy this year,” said the third-year St. Albert player from Bournemouth, England and like a lot of overseas’ recruits over the years found a girlfriend here and decided to call our city home.
Angove agreed with Higgins. “We try and build every week so we take our momentum from the previous games into subsequent ones. We weren’t really thinking about that game when we got into this one. We didn’t want to come in complacent,” Angove said. “That was a great victory for us against the Hornets, a big pat on the back if you will, but at the same time it was not the best game for us. We would like to build on the success of it but there was a lot we can take away from it to improve on too.”
It’s shaping up to be another great season for the firsts – the Ken Ann Cup north reps in the provincial final five of the last six years but won only one Labatt’s Cup over that span in 2010.
“It’s looking pretty good. We’ve got a strong team that’s very committed. Our forwards are mobile and hard workers, which is always a fantastic thing, and we’ve got some really dangerous players in the backs and I think we’re all going to work pretty well together,” Angove said.
Saturday the firsts travel to Calgary to battle the Irish at 1:45 p.m. at the Irish Rugby Club.
SCRUM BALLS: The second 15 (1-2) took it on the chin 60-7 against the Leduc Crude on Saturday at Ellerslie. At halftime the seconds trailed 38-7 against a bigger and older side.
Leduc’s top men’s team in the Edmonton Rugby Union scored six of its 10 tries in the first half and kicked five conversions overall.
It was 5-0 when Leduc turned the ball over on tackle by Fitch outside the halfway line and Jarvis picked up the ball near the touchline and motored untouched for a try under the posts in the 14th minute. Fitch kicked the conversion.
Jarvis, a speedy winger, made a couple of try-saving tackles in the loss.
A long penalty kick by Fitch at standoff missed the mark when it was 50-7.
The next match is 7 p.m. Friday at the Pirates Rugby Club.
Two weeks ago the seconds let a 13-5 halftime lead slip away in the 15-13 loss to the Pirates at Alpine field.