After a traumatic trip out west the Rock returned to the familiar home grounds of Swilers in St. John’s to rematch Gordon McRorie and his Wolf Pack. While the visitors featured virtually the same lineup that has won them three out of four this far, the Rock brought in a couple key reinforcements. Ciaran Hearn stepped in for his first CRC action of the year, as did Kyle Baillie, a member of last year’s Canadian ARC selection. With Patrick Parfrey out with a bad knock to the thigh, New Zealand native Ben Harris stood in at flyhalf after earlier featuring as a centre.
For the first quarter it was hard to see that there was much, if any, difference from the match in Calgary, with converted scores to Clay Panga and Jeremy Kyne and the Wolf Pack forwards dominating proceedings once again. Harris picked off a loose pass to steal one against the play, however, and that seemed to give the Rock a much-needed lift. Hearn and McRorie exchanged penalty goals to keep the home side within one score at the break.
The Wolf Pack continued to pile on the pressure after the break, but the Rock defense refused to break, even winning a precious turnover penalty deep in their own end. Hearn made a bad mistake and missed touch, and a textbook counter attack ended a couple phases later with Peter Houlihan trundling over for a classy prop’s try. Though the Rock managed to string together a couple decent passages of play, for the most part the final quarter was an assault on the line for the bonus point try. After a couple mishandles it was appropriately captain Kyle Gilmour who dotted down, McRorie adding the extras to wrap things up.
It was a much better result scorewise for the Rock, but without the intercept try and a series of untidy play from the Wolf Pack this one could have been ugly. The forwards were overwhelmed in virtually every aspect of play, and while the backline defense was improved, there were understandably problems in cohesion. When things did go well, inevitably there was a mistake and the ball was turned over.
McRorie, playing at no10 for the second match in a row, was the best player on the pitch, a theme consistent throughout this tournament. His kicking and generalship were outstanding. Just about every forward in a black jersey looked good. In particular both Evan Olmstead and James Smith underscored their claims on ARC selection with several robust surges with ball in hand.
The Rock have two more home matches to look forward to, with the Bears up next on Sunday. It’s hard to see how they’ll find a win this year, a somewhat alien proposition given their relative success in years gone by. Meanwhile the Wolf Pack will be glued to their computer screens this evening to watch the BC-Ontario match in the hopes of an upset, and a chance for glory against the Blues themselves when the meet on Sunday in Peterborough.
ATLANTIC ROCK 10 vs 31 PRAIRIE WOLF PACK
Thursday, September 18, 16:00 EST, St. John’s
07 mins – C. Panga try 0-5
08 mins – G. McRorie con 0-7
18 mins – J. Kyne try 0-12
19 mins – G. McRorie con 0-14
23 mins – B. Harris try 5-14
24 mins – C. Hearn con 7-14
31 mins – G. McRorie pen 7-17
38 mins – C. Hearn pen 10-17
52 mins – P. Houlihan try 10-22
53 mins – G. McRorie con 10-24
79 mins – K. Gilmour try 10-29
80 mins – G. McRorie con 10-31
A. Rogers; P. McNicholas, C. Hearn, C. Alexander, R. Wilson (T. Hart 62); B. Harris, T. Pomeroy (A. Paul 54); F. Walsh (A. Forrest 68), O. Parfrey (capt.) (A. Calon 74), B. Rogers (S. Cutcliffe 68); J. Meyers (C. Browne 68), B. Lester; K. Baillie (J. Power 68), M. Hamson, Z. Coughlan.
PRAIRIE WOLF PACK
S. O’Hallahan (A. McQueen 74); A. Bontus, N. Blevins, D. MacPherson, G. Turner; G. McRorie, J. Robinson (J. Buchanan 68); P. Houlihan (R. Ackerman 74), M. Harrison (C. Reed 68), J. Smith (R. Kotlewski 74); E. Olmstead, I. Huston (J. Moloney 54); C. Panga, K. Gilmour (capt.), J. Kyne (S. Massiah 74).
Referee: B. Arciero (BCRU)
Assistants: A. McMaster (ORU) & M. Doyle (NRU)