Langford, BC – August 30, 2019: The BC All-Stars were defeated by the Canadian Men’s XV 45-13, despite a spirited effort at Westhills Stadium in Langford. The two teams faced off in front of an electrified audience at the newly refurbished stadium in what was Canada’s penultimate game before the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. BC fought hard throughout the match against their countrymen and gave them a run for their money, but the national team proved to be just a step above over the course of the 80 minutes.
Before the anthem, a moment of silence was held to recognize the passing of Howard Gerwing earlier this month. A mentor and champion to many rugby players over the years, Howard spearheaded the rugby program at the University of Victoria as its first ever head coach, and was inducted in to the UVic Sports Hall of Fame in the Builder category.
Canada drew first blood in the match as UBC graduate Andrew Coe received a great offload from Vancouver’s own Conor Trainor to put the national team on the scoreboard inside ten minutes of play. Andrew Quattrin added a second try just a few minutes later, and with Shane O’Leary once again making good on the conversion kick, the Canadians jumped out to an early 14-0 lead. Seeking a swift response, the BC All-Stars began to make forays into opposing territory. Their efforts were rewarded with two penalties, and the BC side got on the board with six points from the boot of Adam McQueen. The crowd began to buzz excitedly as BC chipped away at the Canadian lead, but Canada responded in kind with a penalty of their own, faithfully converted by O’Leary to increase the lead back to 11.
BC’s play grew more confident as the half progressed, with the All-Stars finding their rhythm and beginning to challenge Canada in midfield. A break from Blake Mahovic turned the tide and drove BC deep into the Canadian half. Before the defence could adjust, John Braddock found a quick pass to Tom Larder who offloaded to Colby Mason for BC’s first try of the match and a roar from the Langford faithful. A well-placed conversion from McQueen brought the All-Stars within 4 points as the half drew to a close.
During the break, local children were given the chance to take to the field and play some fast and fun games of Rookie Rugby. Over 30 eager young fans charged up and down the field under the Westhills floodlights, relishing the chance to play on the same surface as some of the country’s top athletes.
The second half saw a number of changes, both sides taking the opportunity to give their benches a full run out. Canada had the upper hand early on and camped out inside the BC 22m line. The All-Stars defended passionately and held the Canadian advances off for the first ten minutes of the half, but the pressure became too great and eventual man of the match Justin Blanchet crashed through tacklers to score Canada’s third try, with O’Leary once again on target for the conversion.
BC had a sterling chance to get back in to the game with about twenty minutes left to play. Off the back of a defensive scrum on their own 5m line, BC got the ball out to Blake Mahovic near the touchline, who bolted down the pitch before finding Fraser Hurst. Hurst was tackled but rolled through and landed on his feet, gaining a few metres before offloading to lock Owain Ruttan who found Connor McCann. Canada were stretched and scrambling back while BC had numbers in support, the crowd on their feet. Unfortunately the move came to a grinding halt when an offload ricocheted off the referee, putting a stop to the attack and evoking a chorus of jeers from the fans in attendance.
The national team composed themselves after the warning shot and took control of the game once again, with Justin Blanchet adding his second try of the night and O’Leary staying perfect on conversions. Two BC rugby stars would score tries in the remaining 15 minutes of the game, but they were wearing red shirts rather than the blue and yellow hoops of the BC All-Stars. First Travis Larsen and then Phil Mack added the finishing touches to well worked Canadian attacks, both converted by the faultless O’Leary to secure a 45-13 win for Canada. Despite the final scoreline, the BC side put together an admirable performance and played better than the 32-point deficit would suggest.
“They had trained really well,” BC head coach Aaron Takel said of his side’s performance. “Three training sessions together, to come together like that as a team just at the end of the offseason. But they wanted to go out and prove a point. No one in a BC jersey was scared of a red jersey today.”
“This was invaluable preparation for the World Cup,” said Canada’s head coach Kingsley Jones. We’ve got guys on the field tonight that will be called on for the World Cup. The BC team had fire, they dug into us and gave us a real test, and played a lot of good football.
BC’s Travis Larsen scored for Canada in the match, having just represented BC at the Best of the West last month in Kelowna. “They really put on a show in the first half and gave us a bit of a wakeup call,” Larsen said of his fellow BC players that lined up against him on Friday. “I know most of the boys in that team, and it was great to play against some of those guys. They came with a lot of aggression and a lot of physicality.”
“It was phenomenal,” said BC captain Nathan Stewart. “We gave Canada a hell of a game, the crowd was cheering for us all the way. We’re fired up, we’re ready to play all winter long, and I’m excited to play against some of the guys I played alongside today.”
Canada will now head to Vancouver ahead of their final World Cup warm-up match against the USA at BC Place on September 7, with tickets available at rugby.ca. The game will be the last chance to see Canada play on home soil before they fly to Japan for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The BC Rugby Senior Leagues also kick off that same day at clubs up and down the province. Check out bcrugby.com/fixtures for details on all men’s and women’s opening games.