Calgary, AB – August 26, 2018: The BC Bears finished their Canadian Rugby Championship campaign in third place, beating Prairie Wolfpack 48-36 in a thrilling match at Rugby Park in Calgary. The defending champions from 2017 were unable to reach the final this year, so had to make do with a third place after a high scoring and thrilling battle against their Western neighbours.
Collecting themselves after their 58-36 loss to Ontario Blues, the Bears had a stern test ahead of them. Both sides of the field knew one another all too well having already faced off in Calgary and Vancouver in the tournament qualifiers. This familiarity manifested itself clearly in the first half of the match, with the two sides locked in a tight battle, the lead changing hands a total of six times. Every time one side managed to edge ahead, the other pegged them back, neither side able to build significant momentum, but both demonstrating a resilient defensive line. Steve Ng grabbed himself a brace of tries, continuing an impressive run of form for the Bears and Sean Fergusson picked up a loose Wolfpack pass to storm away for a third BC try. The boot of Guiseppe Du Toit was deadly accurate and added conversions on each score. At halftime, the score stood at 21-22, Wolfpack with the slightest of advantages in a real neck and neck race.
Coach Scott Manning must have had some inspiring words for his side during the break, as the Bears came roaring back into the game. Ferguson and Dobravsky collaborated with deadly effect to get BC back in front. The Wolfpack countered, but BC were able to resist this initial advance and took the opportunity to build some momentum. Doug Fraser pulled out some outstanding all-round work, driving his leg in a tackle for some hard yards, only to show up two phases later linking up with Du Toit who fed the ball to Aaron McLelland who added another five points. Not long afterwards, Isaac Kaay, so effective in the semi-final, ran an excellent line to draw his defender before offloading to Ferguson who ran in for his second try. McLelland was then back in the spotlight, making the most of a scrappy phase of play and employing some quick footwork to shake off tacklers and claim his second score. Amongst all this, another two points came from the boot of Du Toit and all of a sudden BC had opened up a 21 point gap, 43-22. This steamroller action could well have continued, but some ill-discipline crept in and BC found themselves two men down for a period of time, the Wolfpack losing one of their own to the sin bin not long after for good measure. All of this disrupted BC a bit and a penalty kick from the Wolfpack nibbled away at the Bears’ lead. Understandably, both teams were quite fatigued by this point and BC were able to slow the game down to compensate for being a few men short. But you can’t keep good men down and Doug Fraser showed he still had something left in the tank when snatched a Wolfpack pass out of the air to secure one more try. The kick from Du Toit was wayward, missing the opportunity to hit the half-century, but BC had shown they weren’t going to be rolled late in the game. The Wolfpack snuck back one final try late in the second half, but the Bears’ dominance earlier had put them well out of reach. When the final whistle rang, both teams were clearly exhausted for their efforts. But few who had watched the clash could be left in any doubt that both teams had given everything, delivering a highly entertaining game of rugby.
The coach Scott Manning said after the game, “I think we came out a bit flat but when we settled into the way we wanted to attack we started scoring a lot. We were a bit better defensively than Thursday, but still not where we would need to be to win a title”. He added his thoughts on the Bears’ overall experience during this 2018 season, “Looking back, I think we needed more time together as a group. I feel like we have the players in this province to show better than we did at this tournament, but we need to do better to get them prepared and organized going in. Building to next year, the bears can’t just be a summer thing. It needs to be ongoing, so that we can be firing on all cylinders come the CRC”.
So the BC Bears were unable to defend their CRC title, but walk away with third place and some real potential displayed as the team grew together through the tournament. Credit to everyone on the team and staff for their tireless work this summer. For anyone looking for further game stats during the Canadian Rugby Championship, check out the tournament website at canadianrugbychampionship.com.