A furious late-game comeback fell just short, literally, for the Capilano Rugby Club's elite men as they battled Burnaby Lake in the championship final of the preseason Mainland
Cup tournament on a soggy and sloppy day at Klahanie Park Saturday.
Capilano trailed 24-10 with one minute left in the game when Adam Zaruba made a strong run through the Burnaby line before dishing off to Glen McKinnon who scored his second try of the day. The convert made it 24-17 with only stoppage time left to play. Miraculously, that was enough time for Capilano to regain possession and fight all the way back to the Burnaby line where Hamish Johnston ended a swift move by scoring a try in the far corner of the end zone. That made it 24-22 but, with no time left to play, Capilano's Matt Sims was faced with a gametying conversion attempt from the far sideline. The last kick of the game looked like it was online but fell a few yards short, ending the comeback and giving Burnaby the cup.
"That's as hard as it gets," Capilano head coach Tom Larisch said of the convert attempt Sims faced. "From the sideline in wet conditions, you've got the rope in the way and can't do a proper run-up. That's not on Matt, he kicked well today."
The game was played in brutal weather conditions with monsoon rain cutting through cold and wind. Standing water collected in low spots on the field while clouds of steam rose up into the air whenever the massive bodies united in a scrum.
"It's tough," Larisch said of playing in a fall storm. "Your body is warm but the periphery, your hands and feet are very cold and that makes it quite difficult not just because the ball is wet but because you can't feel your hands properly."
Burnaby started quickly in the match with centre James Reekie breaking through for a try less than five minutes in. McKinnon tied it 5-5 midway through the first half with a try coming off a big push into the Burnaby end zone while Clayton Hunter-James made it 10-5 Capilano five minutes later with a dive over the line after a strong sequence of play.
A Burnaby penalty made it 10-8 at halftime. From there, however, Burnaby took control with 16 straight points, including tries from Reekie and Joe Dolesau, to push the score to 24-10 and set up the stirring finish.
"We unfortunately made a couple of mistakes at critical times," said Larisch. "Burnaby is a good team, they capitalized on it and scored some opportunistic points.. .. They're well drilled, they're big, they're strong and they have some difference makers."
Burnaby is coming off a season that saw them reach the championship final of the CDI Premier League. The Mainland Cup is a new competition meant to renew Vancouver-based rivalries before the start of the Premier League. While Capilano didn't claim the Miller Cup, the trophy awarded to the Mainland Cup elite champions, Larisch was happy to see his team fight to the finish.
"That's great to see, that's Capilano spirit," he said. "We're not as big as they are but I think we're fit and strong. I think that's where we're going to win a lot of games is the last 10 minutes of each half."
Capilano did claim one trophy on the day, their Div. 1 team knocking off Burnaby Lake in the Mainland Cup first division final to take home the Tisdall Cup trophy.
The Caps will now turn their attention to the Premier League which kicks off this weekend. The team made the semifinals last year where they lost a heartbreaker to the eventual champions from James Bay. Larisch said he's got the team to get past that level this season, reclaiming the championship they won in 2012.
"Our goal is to win," he said. "I think we're capable of it, we're just going to have to work hard and get back at it this week."
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