May 12, 2018
St. George Rugby Club
The Sr. Men’s 2018 rugby season kicked off with a trip down the 401 to London, Ontario. It was a beautiful spring day for a season opener and the Burlington men were well aware they would be in tough against a strong and talented London St. George program. London was also celebrating a milestone year in their club, being their 60th anniversary. The Centaurs were well aware of the uncharted waters they’d be sailing too. This was also a big day for Burlington as it was our first official match in the Marshall Championship after a promotion year.
Getting the kinks out early, there was some last minute juggling to the 2ndXV lineup; luckily there were many eager Centaurs chomping at the bit to play. As the referees whistle went, Bryan Hannon kicked off and the 2018 campaign was underway. Both teams were built with a savvy combination of young / veteran players and it had all the ingredients for an 80 minute battle. The Centaurs started the first half on their heels, playing a lot of Defence. Nick Manz showed his veteran experience and his strong physique by leading the way several devastating tackles. London’s ball movement was tight and dynamic which lead them to put away two early tries, 10-0 London. The Centaurs were able to fight back with nice place kicking by Juan Palacio and first half tries scored by Bryan Hannon and Brian Curran. Despite the Centaurs surge, they remained down after the first 40 minutes and were well aware of their unforced errors count.
After a quick huddle, the second half began with some of the same substance as the first. After both teams exchanging tries, Burlington remained trailing as the clock was winding down. Though Bryan Hannon was able to punch in a try late; Jack Mahoney succumbed to an injury forcing the Centaurs to play with a man down for the remaining two minutes. This gave London an opportunity to add on a late try making the final score 37-26 London over Burlington. Zach Dundas also scored a try in the second half which gave the Centaurs a bonus point. The Centaurs will be taking some positive learning experiences into their bye week.
The 1st XV kicked off at 1500 hours as the sun emerged cranking up the temperature in an 80 minute battle that was already set to be heated. The Centaurs were looking to break the London sweep but knew it would not be an easy task against a decorated squad which included prominent rugby resumes with international caps. With some punishing tackles on both sides, the teams were well-introduced to each other early on. London were looking to find space early and after a clearance kick and handling error by the Centaurs the home side was up 5-0. The Centaurs were not deterred by London’s quick start and were able to strike back. Newest Centaur, Brenden Gilbert sparked his debut with dashing 22m try which leveled the score 5-5. The Centaurs were than able to take the lead with textbook driving maul from 10M out, finished off by Louis Hinshelwood. With the visitor crowd reeling, the Centaurs continued to hit the gain line at pace. The third try of the half started with an excellent offload by Jeff Brownson creating a 2-1 with a lone London defender. Steve Giboney and Trevor Atkinson worked the give and go and Atkinson dotted down under the posts. At Standoff, Brenden Bryan’s foot was “on” adding a penalty before the half ended. The Centaurs went into the huddle after 40 minutes leading the home team.
Skipper Jeff Brownson, praised the strong effort but encourage to up the tempo in the next 40 minutes. “This is going to be a 12-round boxing match and they’re going to keep coming.” With the Centaurs getting into penalty trouble resulting in a couple yellow cards, the St George’s were able to draw blood and began to close the gap. The teams exchanged scores and then after a couple excellent phases of play by Burlington, impact sub Michael Dougherty was able to push over the line for a try. Though the Centaurs defence did bend it did not break, conceding 24 points total to London. Brenden Gilbert then sealed the deal late by scoring an electric try off the back of the scrum, Wilson to Shurtleff to Gilbert which solidified his well-deserved man of the match honours. 34-24 Burlington over London and the 1st XV have started their campaign 1-0.
Jeff Brownson preached afterwards this was a total team effort with all 23 men getting into the game. Heading into the Victoria Day long weekend the 1st XV will be forced to have their home opener on a short week – 7PM Thursday May 17th vs. the Toronto Nomads. The crowds presence in London was electrifying, we thank all the supporters who made the drive. The Centaurs hope to keep the momentum going and are anticipating a big crowd to cheer on the Blue, White & Orange for their home debut.
photo credit John Guilfoyle