The St. Albert Exiles put their losing season behind them this week with their first win of the year.
The team ran over the Edmonton Nor’Westers in a 41-5 drubbing at the St. Albert Rugby Club Wednesday night.
Prior to Wednesday the Exiles were winless after disappointing showings in their first two games of the year.
The Exiles had a full bench and plenty of substitutions on the field at Wednesday’s game, in stark contrast to their second game of the season on May 19 against the Edmonton Pirates. The Exiles suffered a 36-10 loss in that game and started with only 14 players and no back up on the bench.
Exile Liam Hutchinson said that game was disappointing and he was glad to start with a full roster this week.
“The long weekend really affected us, as you could tell when we played the Pirates.”
The Nor’Westers got on the board early scoring the first try after successfully defending a dedicated opening drive from the Exiles, but their offence started to dry up shortly after.
Hutchinson said he by no means viewed the game as a lock for their Exiles because the Nor’Westers are a talented team.
“There are some guys out there that I played division one with not too long ago and sure, they are not as fast as they were, but they still know all the ins and outs.”
The Nor’Westers kept the game competitive through the first half, often pushing deep into Exile territory only to be driven back within metres of the goal.
The Exiles evened up the score quickly after the Nor’Westers opened the scoring and followed up with another quick try.
Both teams had trouble kicking the ball in Wednesday night’s bitter winds, but when the Exiles scored a third try at the end of the first half they did manage to get it through the uprights.
The Exiles really started to pull away in the second half notching up four successive tries and keeping the Nor’Westers near constantly bogged down in their own end.
Hutchinson said the team really pulled their game together in the second half when their conditioning allowed them to consistently outrun the Nor’Westers.
“It boils down to youth and fitness. We worked them hard in the off-season on their fitness.”
Hutchinson said he was really surprised by the play of some of the young rookie players who have joined the squad this season. He fingered Mark Koslowski, who came from the Paul Kane football program, as the player of the game.
“He saw the light and came to rugby and never looked back,” says Hutchinson.
Hutchinson said the team plans to try to give the younger players lots of playing time this season to help prepare them for possible higher-level rugby.
“You have to let these young kids run. They have to play as much rugby as they physically can,” he says. “They need to be playing as many games as possible.”
Hutchinson said there is only a short window to challenge the young players and foster that love of the sport.
“It is not like hockey where there are dozens of games they get 12 or 13 games in a season and playoffs if they play well and that is it.”