Frank Lucas split the uprights on the last play of the game in dramatic fashion Saturday to beat the Fort McMurray Knights.
St. Albert’s second division rugby team was down by two points when the man of the match teed up the long and difficult penalty kick.
“It was about 30 yards out. I knew the wind was blowing across the field so I just aimed for the outside post and hooked it in,” an awestruck Lucas told the Gazette after he was mobbed by teammates following the 23-21 thriller.
As the ball sailed through the posts, Lucas turned towards the fans and raised his arms in jubilation as cheers rained down on the pitch at the St. Albert Rugby Football Club.
“Glory. That’s what it felt like,” he said with a massive grin. “I’m just glad to help my team out like that.”
At stake was the team’s first win this season after three losses in the Edmonton Rugby Union (ERU) when Lucas planted his right foot into the ball.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking. I was just hoping I didn’t miss it,” said the 2009 second 15’s most valuable player. “I had my head down and I vision it going through. When I looked up it was in.”
The big boot from Ashley Hanson distance completed an impressive comeback.
“It’s pretty exciting knowing that we can pull it off like this,” Lucas said. “We were down 13-0 at half and then we got a few lucky kicks that got us some momentum and that got us back into the game.”
In the first half the Knights scored a converted try off a five-metre scrum in the fourth minute and kicked a pair of penalties from outside the 22-metre line.
The seconds also lost the services of Adrian Taggart in the middle portion of the half when the referee sentenced the rambunctious forward to the sin bin.
“Even though we were down at halftime we kept believing in ourselves and not believing that they’re better than us,” Lucas said. “We’re a new team in second div this year and our biggest problem is that we fear teams that have played together in the second div like Fort Mac.”
Fifteen minutes into the second half Lucas put the seconds on the board with a penalty kick on a slight angle from just outside the 22.
The seconds continued to press for points and came close to scoring twice before a penalty play in front of the five-metre line was finished off by Justin Gilmour on the left wing. Lucas converted it with 19 minutes to play.
“I tapped the ball and passed it to Bomber [Justin Armitt] and he gave it to Justin and he quickly ran it in,” said Lucas, 25.
Four minutes later, after a massive switch in field position on the kick for touch by Lucas, his successful penalty from outside the 22 knotted it at 13-all.
The Knights regrouped to kick a penalty from the 22 and then later rucked over a try to go up by eight.
The seconds roared back down field and after a few minutes of intense pressure, scored on the overlap with Ehren Cox making the key play. A tricky conversion attempt near the touchline by Lucas bounced in off the far post to make it a one-point deficit.
The Knights (2-1) ran out of steam in the dying minutes as the seconds ratcheted up the attack, culminating in Lucas’ heroics.
“It’s good beating a team that play a pretty good standard of rugby. Fort Mac went to the provincial final last year [and lost to Banff] so it was a great win for us,” he said.
This is St. Albert’s first year in the second division since their 18-1 Lor-Ann Cup provincial championship season in 2007. Most of the players made significant contributions with last year’s ERU third division finalists.
“We’re a pretty young team so it shows we have a good future at the club and for this team,” said Lucas, a high school rugby product of the Bellerose Bulldogs. “Most of us guys are a mix between the third div teams and the first div team from last year. We’re slowly getting together and we’ll see where it takes us this year, hopefully to the finals.”
The seconds (1-3, 71 PF/110 PA) host the Druids (1-3) Saturday at 1 p.m.