The first edition of the Cowichan Derby went to the 49ers.
Cowichan’s two entries in the Vancouver Island Soccer League masters A division squared off on the Sherman Road turf on Saturday night, with the favoured 49ers topping the upstart Steelheads 2-0.
The three-time defending Tony Grover Cup champions took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Richard Lord at 19 minutes, then waited until the 63rd minute to add some insurance in the form of a goal by Darcy Penner. Chad Bastian earned the shutout for the 49ers, while Preston Johnny had a spectacular outing in the Steelheads’ net, in spite of the loss.
Penner’s goal was his fifth of the season, tying Neall Rowlings and Stu Barker for the team lead, something Rowlings seemed to have a bit of an issue with.
“Penner has been on somewhat of a roll,” remarked Rowlings, who is also the manager for both Cowichan masters teams. “He might almost have too much confidence.”
As the low score would suggest, the backlines of both teams were solid. Adam Taft was an unsung hero as usual for the 49ers, while the Steelheads countered with a group effort on defence.
“The Steelheads seemed to cycle through defenders,” Rowlings said. “It was like speed dating — I could interact with so many of them.”
Rowlings blamed himself for the “miss of the game” as well, a breakaway on which he failed to capitalize.
“It was bad,” he admitted a day later. “I still wake up at night over it.”
The Steelheads’ went into the game with a significant edge in disciplinary infractions, but the 49ers were the “good squad” on Saturday, Rowlings admitted. Jai Irvine of the 49ers was assessed a red card for a double yellow late in the game, although his manager and teammate didn’t see it the same way as the referee.
“I don’t believe it warranted a send-off,” Rowlings said. “But that is how soccer goes.”
Rowlings did give credit to the Steelheads for their organization, and pointed to Marshall Wilkins and Travis Brown as standout players. As the home team, the Steelheads also cooked a postgame feed for both squads after the game, in the form of “gourmet hexagon burgers,” as Steelheads player and actual chef Dan Hudson called them.
Both teams are looking forward to the rematch on Jan. 25. In the meantime, the Steelheads will host Saanich Fusion this Saturday at 8 p.m., and the undefeated 49ers will visit the Cordova Bay Bobcats on Friday.