VANCOUVER - James Bay fly half Connor Braid delivered a crushing blow on Saturday afternoon at Connaught Park, converting a penalty to lift his side to a 24-21 victory over Meraloma in Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League play. Braid's fourth penalty on the day saw James Bay (12-1) clinch the overall number one seed heading into the postseason and eliminated Meraloma (6-6-1) from the playoff picture, as the 'Lomas are now six points back with just one week game left in the regular season.
Elsewhere in Premier League play, Burnaby Lake (8-5) decimated Abbotsford (1-12) by a score of 51-5. North Shore club Capilano RFC (9-4) fell 24-28 to reigning champions Castaway Wanderers (9-3-1) and the UVic Vikes (2-11) downed the UBCOB Ravens (4-9) by a score of 74-22.
Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League - Sat. April 21st:
James Bay AA 24 - 21(+1) Meraloma Rugby Club
UBCOB Ravens 22 - 74(+1) UVic Vikes
Capilano RFC 24(+2) - 28(+1) Castaway Wanderers
Abbotsford RFC 5 - 51(+1) Burnaby Lake Rugby Club
NOTE: Semifinals scheduled for May 5th
James Bay wrap up top seed
Saturday's match at Connaught Park featured four tries and a kicking duel between two of the league's top scorers; James Bay's Connor Braid and Meraloma's Bryan Tyrer.
"It was classic James Bay versus Meraloma rugby," said James Bay head coach Peter Rushton. "It's always a battle when these two sides meet and we have a lot of respect for this club."
Meraloma were first to get on the scoreboard as Tyrer orchestrated a switch play, dummying out wide before switching back inside to a streaking Sean Mercier who crashed through to touch down underneath the posts. Tyrer slotted the conversion to put his side up 7-0.
James Bay marched back as inside centre Morgan Williams cut straight down the middle before offloading to Adam Drury who dotted down. Braid kicked a penalty heading into the break to put his side up 8-7.
The Bays carried their momentum into the second frame, as some fluid passing eventually put flanker Zac Coughlan through for a try. Braid tacked on the extras for a 15-7 lead and shortly after added another penalty to put his side up 18-7.
With their hopes of advancing to the playoffs slipping away, Meraloma rallied for 11 straight points as Tyrer converted two penalties and full back Brock Staller went over for a try.
The final quarter was plagued with penalties as both sides were whistled for repeated infractions. Connor Braid kicked a penalty to put his side up 21-18, before Tyrer responded with a further three points of his own to make it 21-21.
Heading into the final minutes, the 'Lomas gave up a crucial penalty inside their own half. Braid made no mistake, slotting the long distance kick to secure the 24-21 win.
"It's really disappointing as we definitely had enough chances to win," said Meraloma captain Eric Wilson after the match. "We should be advancing to the playoffs but we're not because of our own mistakes. We definitely don't feel like we played our best game today and we took too many penalties."
James Bay head coach Peter Rushton was pleased with his team's effort as they posted their ninth straight win and will now host a semifinal match on May 5th.
"I think we had their number in the sets today and we matched them up front. We did a great job controlling the gain line and I think our guys really stepped up."
Next week James Bay are at home to face off against the UBCOB Ravens in the final game of the regular season. Meraloma will be at home to the UVic Vikes, Abbotsford are away to Capilano and the Castaway Wanderers will travel to Burnaby Lake.
Ceili's Cup League (Tier 1 First Division) - Sat. April 21st:
James Bay AA 12 - 28(+1) Meraloma Rugby Club
UBCOB Ravens 0 - 100(+1) UVic Norsemen
Capilano RFC 14(+1) - 17 Castaway Wanderers
Abbotsford RFC 22(+1) - 27(+1) Burnaby Lake Rugby Club
NOTE: Semifinals scheduled for May 5th