KAMLOOPS - It's safe to say the transition from Third Division rugby to the Okanagan Spring Brewery League has gone pretty smoothly for Kamloops Rugby Club. Just five weeks into the 2012-13 regular season and the Kamloops Raiders are undefeated and this Saturday could finish off their home stand at 5-0. Up next, the Raiders host the league's top defensive side in the 3-0 UBC Thunderbirds.
SCHEDULE / STANDINGS / SCORING STATS
Due to the weather conditions and Kamloops being located upwards of four hours travel from any of their opposition, this will be the Raiders' last home game until March 23rd. Starting off the season at their home pitch with five straight games, however, has allowed the team to build considerable momentum.
"Home field advantage for us is always good as we seem to have a few more players around come selection time compared to our road games," said Kamloops head coach Trevor Johnston. "So far this year we have had a bit of luck on our side as the games have all been very close."
Since winning the Third Division last May in a 38-25 win over Velox, Kamloops has carried their form into the Fall season where they continue to produce wins against formidable opponents. The tight games include a 10-6 scoreline against Surrey, 25-24 win over Abbotsford and a 32-25 victory over Vancouver Rowing Club.
"Last year's win in the final over Velox helped [as] the main group wanted to get back into the higher division and they have been good on their commitment," Johnston added. "The Third Division is one of the strongest leagues for a reason."
The Raiders have benefited from some consistent play by Brandon Kicia, who sits third in league scoring with 34 points from three tries, a penalty and eight conversions. Making an impressive return to the club is also Sam Boggetti who is back playing after a years traveling education program. The Raiders are now bracing themselves for Saturday's younger opposition, a team Johnston has a tremendous amount of respect for.
"We are sure that [UBC Coach] Spence McTavish will have all his players running the ball down our throats and trying to get around us," added Johnston. "That's what they do so well and [why they] have had so much success."
The two teams haven't scrummed down against each other since 2008 when the students narrowly escaped Kamloops with a 29-20 victory.
"I remember the last time we went up there and it was a really close game," said McTavish. "I anticipate that it will be another really close one this weekend. We saw their result against Surrey who we played in a tight game last week, so we know they will be strong."
The Thunderbirds graduated a number of their veterans over the summer, including some of their heavier forwards. But an influx of new talent has seen the students jump out to 3-0 and they currently lead the league defensively allowing less than 8 points per game.
"Defensively we have been okay. We don't have a big pack by any stretch of the imagination but we scrummage fairly well," McTavish added. "That's always been one of the strengths of our game as it allows us a platform to build from."
A key piece to that scrum has been back rower Ben Middlestead, a Capilano product who has been making his presence felt. Also making a name for himself is BC U18 provincial team grad and second row Connor Hamilton.
UBC's back line was bolstered with the recent additions of Meraloma's Bryan Tyrer and Brock Staller - two players with rep honours at the senior provincial level. The halfback combination has also shown well for UBC this season with med student Simon MacDonald at scrum half and veteran Carlin Hamstra at no. 10. Leading the league in scoring is UBC speedster Seasn Ferguson who has tallied eight tries for 40 points.
"We have six guys who played for the [provincial] U19s last summer with another six or seven who played for the U18s," McTavish added. "That's two years of back-to-back recruitment and if we can keep them all involved it looks good for us later on."
The two sides will put their perfect records on the line on Saturday at 2:30pm. Their seconds will face off at 1:00pm.
Elsewhere in the league Richmond (2-2) are away to Abbotsford (3-2); Langley (1-4) travel to Surrey (1-3); and Seattle (2-2) battle Vancouver Rowing Club (3-1) in a rematch of last year's provincial semifinal at Brockton Oval.
Okanagan Spring Brewery League One - Sat. October 27th:
Seattle at Vancouver Rowing Club (Brockton Oval) 2:30pm
Richmond RFC at Abbotsford RFC (CFV Exhibition) 2:30pm
Langley RFC at Surrey Beavers AA (Sullivan Heights) 2:30pm
UBC Thunderbirds at Kamloops RFC (Rayleigh Rugby Park) 2:30pm
Okanagan Spring Brewery League Two - Sat. October 27th:
Seattle at Vancouver Rowing Club (Brockton Oval) 1:00pm
Richmond RFC at Abbotsford RFC (CFV Exhibition) 1:00pm
Langley RFC at Surrey Beavers AA (Sullivan Heights) 1:00pm
UBC Braves at Kamloops RFC (Rayleigh Rugby Park) 1:00pm