By: Andrew DiRienzo
The Trent Excalibur took advantage of a less than stellar effort by the Thunder men’s rugby team, finishing with a 43-12 victory in what was the last game before the playoffs for both teams.
The Thunder came out flat and paid for it as Trent scored three tries by the 20 minute mark and took a 26-0 lead into the half. Despite the deficit, coach Geoff Tomlinson still found a positive to take from their play.
“They basically owned the second half of the first half,” he said. “They played a more structured game, they kept the ball tight and they were able to pound it on them and make metres off the game.”
Tomlinson and the Thunder weren’t too happy with the officiating throughout during the game, even voicing their displeasure at times.
Tomlinson pointed to a few instances where penalties were called which he said he thought were questionable but said it didn’t really matter whether or not they were penalties. He added he thought the players were mentally distracted early in the match due to the officiating.
Flanker Chass Maracle, who scored a try, didn’t make any excuses for the loss.
“We weren’t executing anything,” he said. “We fell back, we should have kept going but we made too many mistakes.”
Tomlinson didn’t mince words when it came to evaluating his team’s performance.
“They missed tackles, when it comes down to it,” he said. “The problem was, no matter what, we didn’t communicate a couple of times and they had an overlap.”
The majority of the game was played in close to freezing temperatures along with some powerful winds, making things very difficult on the players.
“In a game with the weather like this, with the wind and the wet and everything, it’s got to come from a forward usually and you want your backs to make every tackle,” Tomlinson said. “That back’s hands get cold so it’s harder for them to hold on to the ball.
“The wind really affects where they’re going to stand. Our guys were better on kick returns than they were, but our kick chase was weak and we should have put more pressure on them but we didn’t.”
The Thunder, who finished third in the east with a 4-2 record, are now faced with a must-win game Nov. 3. Despite the team’s loss, flanker Jim Nelles said he is confident in the team heading into the playoffs.
“If we have a strong week at practice I believe we should do well in the playoffs,” he said.
According to Tomlinson, in games such as this where the team falls behind early, the team looks to number eight Dan Burley. He said this is because Burley, who is one of the captains, is “very fit, very fast and very tough.”
Tomlinson said he knows what the team has to do in order to be successful in their next game.
“They need to cut down on errors. They need to make their tackles and they can’t make them high,” he said. “And they need to have more guys in support and communicate. The first 20 minutes is pretty much vital. We have to play better in the first 20.”