The second division St. Albert men’s rugby squad fell to 0-2 on Friday, but the team isn’t about to panic.
The seconds lost 35-13 at Ellerslie Rugby Park to the LA Crude of Leduc (1-1) in a chilly, rainy game played on a field that quickly got the players white uniforms covered in mud. The players were, of course, in short-sleeved jerseys and shorts. Meanwhile, some spectators made sure to come prepared in winter jackets and gloves with the windchill reaching -2 C during the game.
St. Albert coach Gareth Scott said the conditions were very difficult for the players to play in, especially outside the scrumhalf position.
“They very rarely see the ball because of the conditions,” he said. “It’s tough to move the ball out wide. The longer they don’t have any action, the tougher it gets. I’m sure that a lot of the players there weren’t even feeling their hands towards the end of the game. So when the ball comes or even putting a hard tackle in or whatever, it’s hard.”
The St. Albert men’s third team (1-2) was playing on an adjacent field at the same time and lost 20-0 to the Lep/Tigers (2-0). Because of the timing, as well as previous injuries suffered by St. Albert players, the players for one St. Albert team weren’t available as subs for the other.
Men’s club captain Brian Pendlebury, Ben Robinson and Duncan Maguire, who all play on the men’s premier team, have all suffered injuries and are out of the line-up.
On Friday, Chal Smyth, who coaches the premier team and only drew into the second division game because of other injuries, suffered a hip pointer himself only five minutes into the game. Graham Scott was the only substitute available for both teams and he came in to replace Smyth.
However, shortly into the second half, Graham had to come out of the game, visibly cold and exhausted. That left St. Albert one man short for the remainder of the game. In addition, there were a couple of occasions when players in the third division game asked to be relieved by a substitute but no help was on the way.
“It’s always difficult, because when people have got an injury that in better circumstances, they may come off so they don’t keep injuring it, making the injury worse, they have to kind of suck it up and carry on,” Gareth said. “That’s not good for anybody, but they actually did do that.”
Gareth said it’s not a matter of not having enough players in the club but rather having an abundance of injuries early in the season. Those players should be able to return fairly soon and there should be a couple of imports on the way too, so it shouldn’t be too long before things turn around for the St. Albert club who had a successful 2009, including finishing as the men’s premier champions in the regular season, going undefeated (12-0).
In the second division game against Leduc, the Crude went up early 14-0 on tries from John Mackenzie and Michael Grico, before Brendan Cox got St. Albert on the board. Aaron Takel, originally from England, nailed the long convert from beside the sideline. He would later add two penalty kicks.
Leduc went into halftime with a 21-10 lead and scored another two tries in the second half with Mackenzie adding his second and Dylan Pretty rounding out the scoring.
“There was some sloppy ball out there,” said eight-man Kyle Baillie. “Everything was hard to catch. It was a lot of knock-ons, a lot of scrumming, you know what I mean. It was just constantly messy out there.”
Baillie is being thrown into the fire with the second division team, just moving up from junior rugby in his home province of Prince Edward Island.
It was a similar story for the third division team. Blake Mitchell, a 20-year-old front-row player who returned to the team after a year away, said there was a lot of knock-ons and problems related to the weather.
At the same time, Gareth said he was impressed with how the team handled themselves.
“We had a lot of young boys, teenagers, out there battling, working hard in really rough conditions, against a very mature and well seasoned team in the Lep-Tigers,” he said. “Even though they lost the game, they showed a lot of character and that can only be good for the future.”
Both the second and third division St. Albert teams are back in action on Saturday in Grande Prairie.