It was the Kyle Gilmour show Saturday at the St. Albert Rugby Football Club.
The decorated forward – four caps in 7s and 15 caps in 15s for Canada – was worth the price of admission at eight-man while running roughshod over the Calgary Saints.
The high school rugby product of the St. Albert Skyhawks scored the first of his three tries in the fourth minute as the SARFC premier men manhandled the Saints 62-27.
The first full 80-minute performance for Gilmour while easing his way back into form was greeted with enthusiast chats of “Gilly! Gilly! Gilly!” from the SARFC supporters.
“It’s good to back playing in front of the deck with a full crowd here that’s nice and loud cheering us on,” said Gilmour, a flanker for Canada on the 2015 Rugby World Cup team that included prop Andy Tiedemann, a SARFC alumnus.
Injuries have sidelined Gilmour since the 2016 IRB Americas Rugby Championship while playing for Canada.
“I broke my (left) cheekbone so I had an operation and they put a couple of metal plates in my face and that healed up pretty quick but it’s been a bad groin injury that’s kind of kept me out the last 15 or 16 months or whatever it was,” said Edmonton Rugby Union’s senior player of the year in 2009 and 2013.
Gilmour, 29, recently saw action with the Calgary-based Prairie Wolf Pack and last month returned to the SARFC premier lineup in the 13-12 loss to the Calgary Canucks (3-2).
Back on his home pitch, Gilmour’s scoring spectacle lit a fire under the struggling firsts – losers of three of their last four matches, including a pair of disturbing 57-26 and 51-3 defeats against the Nor’Westers (6-0) – as the three-time defending Labatt’s Cup provincial champions evened their record at 3-3.
“It’s good for the confidence,” Gilmour said. “It’s good to know that I can still kind of get up to the level and work with these guys to put a better performance on the pitch. Personally I’ve got a long way to go and so does the team so we’ll just keep building from here and see where we can get to.”
Gilmour’s first try was a power play by the forwards off a lineout ball deep in the Calgary zone.
“I always like the maul try because the forwards get all the credit and sometimes that’s tough work in there and it goes kind of unrecognized how much work you’re doing and how uncomfortable it is to be in a maul so that was my favourite one of the day,” said the captain of the 2015 Canadian Rugby Championship tournament-winning Wolf Pack and for Canada at the 2014 Americas Rugby Championship.
It was 19-3 following Robert Blundon’s try and George Harding’s conversion when the firsts returned the ensuing kick-off with the sleek looking six-foot-two Gilmour (“I’m around 225 pounds, which is five to 10 pounds less than I was before”) pounding the pitch with authority with a lengthy romp into the try area in the 20th minute.
Gilmour was also instrumental on the team’s next try with a Duncan Maguire-calibre burst of speed through traffic along the touchline before whipping the ball over to Matt Jarvis in front of the 22-metre line and finisher on the play was Angus (Gus) MacDonald with a spinarama move out of a tackle in front of the try line to make it 31-8 in the 25th minute.
Gilmour completed the hat-trick with a dash around the edge for a try under the posts and Harding’s conversion padded the lead to 50-8.
Gilmour wasn’t the only bright light offensively for the firsts. Blunden, who was outstanding at hooker, Aidan Zalasky and Jarvis on the wing and scrumhalf Jake Robinson put some bite back into the team’s toothless attack in recent matches as the firsts tacked up 10 tries on the scoreboard and Harding managed to convert six of the scores.
“It was a pretty good performance by the boys. We came out firing early and didn’t really let them get back in it,” Gilmour said.
The win was a massive confidence booster after the Nor’Westers made the firsts look like a fourth-division team during the 48-point margin of victory the previous weekend.
“The Nor’Westers are a very strong side so we won’t take anything away from them but today we definitely stepped our game up. Sam (Townsend, the head coach) got us working in the right direction at the past couple of trainings,” said Gilmour, who was spotted at the Nor’Westers field watching not only one of the worst losses in the modern era (circa 2008) by the first 15 but the third setback in four tilts against the Nor’Westers dating back to August of 2016.
“But more than anything it’s a mindset kind of thing. A lot of these guys haven’t faced that kind of adversity before but they’re playing probably a bigger and stronger team. We’ve got a lot of young guys coming through that are going to have to go through the growing pains of that and we’re going to have to work through that with Sam towards the end of the year.”
With seven matches remaining, the firsts are playing for the right to host the Sept. 16 semifinal in the Ken Ann Cup playoffs as the second highest-ranked north team in the premier table against the Strathcona Druids (2-3) or Lep/Tigers (1-4).
The Nor’Westers have a spot locked up in the Ken Ann Cup north final Sept. 23.
The next match is July 8 versus the Lep/Tigers at 4 p.m. at SARFC.
SCRUM BALLS: The SARFC terrific thirds are 5-1 as the top third division team in the Edmonton Rugby Union after Friday’s 64-7 dismantlement of the LA Crude (1-3) in Leduc.
The thirds are back on the pitch July 8 against the Lep/Tigers (2-2-1) and it’s a noon kick-off at SARFC.
The SARFC women dropped both matches Saturday at home and the results were 40-34 against the Grande Prairie Sirens (5-0) in the ERU second division and 56-19 to the Calgary Rams (1-6) in the Alberta premier league.
SARFC had a number of players compete in both matches. At halftime SARFC trailed the Sirens 28-22 and the Rams 22-14.
The Sirens are the only women’s team at the Grande Prairie Rugby Club and the Rams had no shortage of subs.
The premier team (1-5-1) scrums down against the Strathcona Druids (4-2) next Wednesday at 7 p.m. at SARFC and on tap for the division two side (2-2) are the Drayton Valley Riggers (0-3) July 8 at 2 p.m. at SARFC.