SEASON OPENER DRUIDS VS CANUCKS
By Ken Trumper
Druids at home come away with their first win of 2014
In Saturday's season opener, the Strathcona Druids faced the Canucks from Calgary at Ellerslie Rugby Park in Edmonton. There were a number of players playing their first game for the Druids and some had their first opportunity to play 1st division rugby.
Winger Nick Heffel, lock Adam Syme, and hooker Josh Steiner all received their first starts with the Druids 1st XV. Also of note was junior grad Alex Burd, who came off the bench to play in the back row for his 1st cap as a senior player.
The Druids got off to a slower start than they had hoped, but Pete Houlihan and Jonny Clarke led the boys with their hard running and kept the Canucks on the back foot.
When the ball was sent wide to fullback Mike Pepper, he cut back against the run of play to score the opening try. The Druids led 5-0 after Hezron Awoko's conversion sailed wide.
The Canucks responded quickly with a 60m break from their #10. He off-loaded to a support runner who scored under the posts, giving the Canucks the edge with the successful conversion 7-5.
The Canucks kept the heat on the Druids, keeping them on the back foot. The pressure paid off again, with the Canucks #12 rambling 40m around the outside and touching down for a try after a number of missed tackles. The extra points were converted and the Canucks held a 14-5 lead into halftime.
The 2nd half saw the Druids with the wind at their backs, the home supporters hoping the boys would take advantage.
Young Druids hooker Josh Steiner showed plenty of enthusiasm, getting himself involved with some good ball carrying and making positive yards. Steiner also stood out in the tackle area with his physicality and work rate in the rucks.
After taking a few penalties deep inside the Canucks half, the Druids kept the pressure on for halfback Oey Curran to score in the right corner. Awoko missed the conversion and the Druids trailed 14-10.
With the strong winds at their backs, the Druids Awoko sent the ball deep in the Canucks end and kept the pressure on. With a long pass out wide, Awoko found Druid centre Liam Mills showing his skills and off-loading for Rob Elliott to cross over and bring the ball closer to the posts. Hezron added the extra 2 points with the conversion and took the home side out to a 17-14 lead with 20 minutes to go.
The Druids gave away a penalty in their half and the Canucks took the shot at goal to tie things up at 17 apiece.
With under 10 minutes to play the Druids forced a penalty within kicking range and Awoko made no mistake, taking a 20-17 lead. Both sides continued to battle as the final seconds ticked off, leaving the Druids at home with their first win of 2014.
Druids: 20 (Pepper, Curran, Elliott tries; Awoko 1 Con, 1 Pen)
Canucks: 17 (#12 2 tries; #10 2 Con, 1 Pen)
Halftime: 14-5 Canucks
Man of the match: Josh Steiner