The Terrace Northmen rugby team fell in all three games in the Williams Lake Stampede tournament last weekend, and are now gearing up for their final league game against Prince George.
The Stampede rugby tournament in Calgary is well-known and esteemed in the rugby community, drawing both division one and division two teams from clubs and universities from Alberta and B.C. Players from premiere teams and even national players often compete, with occasional teams from the United States showing up.
The calibre of competition was a bit high for the Northmen, who lost three games July 1-2, but it showed them some weak spots to improve as they continue competing.
“It wasn’t the outcome we were hoping for, we had high expectations,” said Northmen vice-president Evan van Dyk, adding that a number of players didn’t come because of work and injuries.
But even with a disappointing results, van Dyk said he did see improvements in ball movement which the teams has been practising.
“We had great ball movement again, that’s something we’ve improved on a lot,” he said. “It’s a lot of the forwards getting involved in the back-end play, which doesn’t always happen… but we’ve really been working on getting everyone involved, so that was really good to see.”
Player Craig Dunfield agreed, noting that the competition was definitely higher calibre.
“We kind of got put on our heels from the get-go with the speed of the game,” he said. “They’re definitely a lot faster with their rooking and controlling the play.”
At the same time Dunfield said the Northmen did execute some good plays.
“We definitely had our individual moments that were quite great, but we just weren’t able to tie enough of them together and get some cohesive playing. Lots of turnovers for sure, just with not having support of the ball carrier.”
But as van Dyk said, they “had a great time” and now can focus on the league, with provincials on the line in their upcoming game July 15.
They face the Prince George Gnats, competing to qualify for provincials and secure first place in the Central Interior Rugby Union.
Right now, the Northmen and the Gnats are tied at the top, both with a season record of 4-1. Williams Lake Rustlers are third at 1-3 and Prince Rupert Seamen are last at 0-4.
The Northmen lost to the Gnats 24-25 in Terrace June 24, and Northmen player-coach Phil Blundon said the Northmen were missing a few players and simply faded at the end.
The key for the next game will be for Terrace to stick to their game plan, he said.
“They’re a big team who likes to run the ball with their forwards. When we’re at full strength we’re kind of the opposite of that — we’re a fast, expansive team with good backs.”
“We just have to play into our game plan and not get sucked into theirs,” he said.
July 15 will be the league final in Prince George.