It was doubly crucial for the Cowichan Piggies to win their First Division rugby game against the Nanaimo Hornets last Saturday. Because their previous meeting had been cancelled, it counted for eight points in the standings instead of the usual four.
The Piggies claimed all eight points with an 18-6 victory.
"We needed to win," head coach Gord McGeachy said. "We’re fighting for first in the league. We’ve got two games left, and we pretty much have to run the table if we want to get home advantage in the playoffs. Getting eight points was massive."
Playing in a downpour, the Cowichan players had to battle not only their opponents by the elements as well.
"The rain was a bit of an equalizer," McGeachy said. "It’s very, very tough to get anything positive going when it’s raining that hard. It kind of prevented us from playing the kind of game we wanted to play."
Instead of playing the expansive game that has been their hallmark this season, the Piggies had to play a tighter style better suited to the Hornets, but things still went in Cowichan’s favour.
Five minutes into the first half, Peter Budina beat several defenders before feeding the ball to Danny Hamstra, who scored under the posts. Cam Hall kicked the conversion and Cowichan led 7-0. The Hornets worked their way down the field and kicked a penalty goal, but the Piggies responded with back-to-back penalty goals from Hall.
The teams kept battling, and Nanaimo slotted another penalty. With about 15 minutes remaining in the half, the Piggies were finally able to get the ball out wide, and Owen Wood carried it over the line to cap the day’s scoring.
The second half was akin to trench warfare as the teams focused on defence in the mire.
"Things just got so bogged down in the rain and mud that it was hard to get any forward progress going," McGeachy said. "As the game went on, things deteriorated even further."
The First Division Piggies have a bye this weekend, then head to Port Alberni on March 29 and host Velox on April 5. If Velox tops Nanaimo this weekend and Cowichan beats Alberni, the April 5 game will be for top spot.
Also last Saturday, the Third Division Piggies won 42-0 in an exhibition against the upstart Vancouver Island University team playing its debut match. The Thirds visit Castaway Wanderers this weekend.