No playoffs for Northmen

The Terrace Northmen rugby club suffered two disappointing losses on the road two weekends ago, taking them out of playoff contention.

The Terrace Northmen rugby club suffered two disappointing losses on the road two weekends ago, taking them out of playoff contention.

After a strong season that saw them beat and tie their toughest competitors, the Prince George Gnats and the Williams Lake Rustlers, at home, the Northmen couldn’t do the same on the road, losing a 17-14 squeaker Friday night against Prince George, and getting blown out 56-0 by Williams Lake the following day.

“Williams Lake was an utter blowout,” said player Evan van Dyk. “They got quite a few by us.”

Losing in that fashion was a surprise, he said. “But we knew we were going to be up against it heading there for a game after playing Prince George the night before.”

The loss against Prince George was heartbreaking – the Gnats scored with 30 seconds left in the game, after two 40 minute halves. Tries were scored by John Warcup and Jamie McKinstrie and both were converted by Tyson Stoochnoff. Man of the matches, as called by Prince George, belonged to Stoochnoff and Jordan Schibli.

But the Northmen lost two players from their 19-player roster during the game against Prince George – Jordy DaCosta who was the team’s Scrum Half, and Don Hill, whose presence would have helped against some of the Rustlers’ bigger players.

Provincial-bound Williams Lake has an incredibly strong rugby program, with decades of players coming through high school and the men’s and women’s teams. This year three Williams Lake teams (men’s, women’s and senior’s) swept the Williams Lake Stampede tournament for the first time in its 35 year history. The tournament sees about a dozen men’s teams come up from the Lower Mainland and the Island to play highly competitive rugby.

“After hearing that news, we knew we were going to have a tough game,” said van Dyk. “They are a very good team and playing at home means you have more subs and are better prepared.”

But the team is taking the loss in stride and using it as ammo for next year.

“We already look forward to continuing to improve and to give them a run next year,” he said. “Williams Lake definitely reminded us what rugby is all about, after beating us on the field they hosted us at their club house for a big barbecue dinner and social event where they announced our man of the matches were Tyson Stoochnoff and Jonathan Doane.”

The Northmen still owe the Prince Rupert/Smithers team a game – the format adopted this year has teams playing one home game and one away game against every team, with the team with the best record going on to provincials – although as far as stats go, it won’t make a difference in who goes to the playoffs.

The game should be played in Smithers mid-August.

The new format will likely stick around next year – the BC Rugby Union says they want to see that the region has competed to go to provincials, meaning there has to be set guidelines.

“All four teams have really enjoyed the sense of purpose for the games, it allowed us to see more players commit to practice and travel than just social games would,” he said.

And the annual Riverboat Days Sevens Tournament – that sees teams of seven as opposed to the traditional 15 take to the pitch for a faster game – is set for Saturday, August 3 in the afternoon at NWCC field.