The Burlington Centaurs (10) history making season persisted as they travelled to ‘The Square’ in a McCormick Cup Quarter Final against the Toronto Scottish (2). The Toronto Scottish were coming off a week one bye. The Scottish had another stellar season in the Premiership, sporting an 8-2-0 record, losing only to the Markham Irish and the Brantford Harlequins. A true David vs. Goliath matchup, the Centaurs were making the trip playing with house-money as they had the only upset of Round One.
As kick-off loomed, it felt as though the sun was at its hottest. With clear skies and a slight breeze, the referee blew his whistle and the Quarter finals were underway. The game initiated with a ferocious tempo and it was the Scottish who looked untidy early on. The Centaurs defensive line speed wreaked havoc for the home side as a clearance kick gave the Centaurs early ball possession. The Centaurs pack took control initially, led by the revolting and dynamic back-row, D. Wilson, A. Wilson & Hogg. Multiple phases building pass the gain line had the Scottish defense clambering. As the visitors inched closer to the try line, newly position prop Colin Mcleod would not be denied as he muscled his way over two defenders touching the ball down for the first points of the game. A miss conversion kept the game at 5-0 and the underdogs had drawn first blood.
Though somewhat rattled, the Scottish kept their composure and started to apply some pressure on the Centaurs. The Centaurs defense continued to cause chaos up the middle of the field; yet, the Scottish were able to move the ball wide and with some timely offloads they scored in the corner, the game was tied 5-5. Un-phased the Centaurs upped their work rate which was wearing down the Scottish pack. Credit to the Centaur pack as their scrums and Lineouts wore down the large Scottish front 8. As the game unbolted, spark-plug halfback Zack Shurtleff identified a mismatch as he stepped a Scottish front rower, which produced a line break. Backing himself he was able to outpace the opposing 15, touching down in the corner, 10-5 Centaurs after the first 40 mins.
The Half-time talk was concise – Keep the energy up, maintain possession, sustain the defensive line speed. With all the pressure on the #2 ranked side they came out hot to start the second half. Hard attacking lines and ball possession awarded them with a penalty under the posts. The kick was good, and the gap was reduced, 10-8 Centaurs. As the game went on tactical subs and attrition came into play. Fresh off the bench, Tim Morton executed an out the back pass towards the Bryan brothers who were able to spring dangerous winger Matt Woodley. Woodley known as a finisher, completed the score with a great step and spiteful fend off, 15-8 visitors. Although, there was a good portion of the half left, the current score overwhelmed the home side as frustration stepped it resulting in an increased penalty tally. One of the penalties was in B. Bryan’s range as he made it a 2-score game with a successful conversion, 18-8. Centaurs
As time wound down, both teams dug further into bench looking for energy. The Scottish play then turned sporadic and the Centaurs stout defense closed all gaps. Punishing tackles at the breakdown and in the centre of the field kept the home side on their back foot. A costly turnover gave Burlington possession and fate was in their own hands. After consecutive slow balls the referee gave Shurtleff the nod and the ball was punted into the sidelines. David had slayed Goliath, final score 18-8 Burlington Centaurs.
A very proud moment for some travelling alumi as well as some longtime Centaurs who have never experienced such a bitter sweet victory and birth into the Semifinals. It truly was 23-man club effort for the Centaurs who laid their bodies on the line against one of the top teams in the province. Big thanks to everyone who made the effort to travel down. With the triumph, the Centaurs continue their road to the cup as the playoff bracket has them returning to Markham to face the Irish. With only 4 teams left a win will reward the Centaurs a McCormick cup final birth.