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Tough loss for thirds

Airways Park — The third division men’s rugby team played its best game of the season in a losing cause Friday against the Clansmen.

Airways Park — The third division men’s rugby team played its best game of the season in a losing cause Friday against the Clansmen.

In the 26-22 loss the 2008 Edmonton Rugby Union finalists surrendered two late tries after leading for most of the match.

“I’m not angry about anything that happened in the game today. They were a solid team,” said an upbeat Henry Quaye, the thirds’ captain. “It’s not the best score we’ve had but we still played really good. Except for a couple of breakdowns in our defence and not being able to finish some tackles we would’ve pulled off the win.”

After veteran winger Nathan Reis scored the team’s fourth try with a nifty move in front of the posts with 12 minutes remaining, the Clan battled back to grab the lead with a pair of opportunistic tries.

“We got too excited a little bit too early,” said Quaye, a formidable eight-man who shook the ground with several thunderous runs deep into Clan territory. “Every year I keep saying we have to play 80 minutes but we just can’t get to that 80 minutes yet. Hopefully we’ll be able to improve on what we did today for our next game [July 4 at home against the Cold Lake Penguins at 2 p.m.].”

A spirited run by Brad Angove in the 19th minute opened the scoring.

Despite a heroic defensive stand by the thirds for several agonizing minutes, the Clan persevered with a converted try in the 28th minute.

Six minutes later, a determined Quaye was tackled short of the try line after running over several Clan tacklers. The ball eventually worked its way to Jackson Evans-Davies to make it 10-7.

Seven minutes into the second half, unrelenting pressure by the thirds produced a wicked try by Jon Anderson. The aspiring scrum-half willed his way over the try line against the Clan’s heavily built forwards with some gutsy moves in traffic. Bradon Platten kicked the convert. After the score, Anderson punched the air with his fist while lifted skywards by Quaye in a celebratory bear hug.

The Clan chipped away at the deficit with a converted try 10 minutes after Anderson’s score.

Leading up to the try by Reis, the thirds lost the services of Anderson, hooker Mike Stapleford and Angove, last year’s MVP for the third-place 10-5-1 team, to injuries. The bullish Angove had his bell rung driving head-first into a defensive wall at the try line, then had a player fall on top of him while in considerable pain and unable to move.

As the game drew to a close, the older and more experienced Clan wore down the gutsy thirds. Some calls also went in favour of Clan by referee Craig Lukaniuk. The St. Albert resident was under fire from both teams throughout the wild and woolly affair.

The loss left the thirds with a 4-3 record, while the Clan improved to 5-2. In last year’s semifinal St. Albert stunned the second-place Clan 19-10.

“It will be a fight to get into playoffs again but we’re a dangerous team. We’re really athletic and as long and we get guys out to practice we’ll be fine,” said Quaye, 23, the team’s MVP in 2007. “We have 80 guys at the club this year so every game we don’t know exactly who is going to be playing with us. I don’t think we’ve had one consistent line-up all year but we do have a lot of guys that know each other and know how each other plays. As long as we start clicking together we’ll be in good shape.”

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