The First Division Cowichan Piggies travelled to Port Alberni on Saturday for an exhibition rugby match against the Black Sheep. Cowichan took 16 players on the road trip only to find that the host club barely had enough players for a team.
“They still gave us a run for our money, as they do every time up there,” said Cowichan coach Andrew Wright, whose team ended up prevailing 49-27, largely on the strength of their second-half play.
It was somewhat unfortunate for the Piggies that it was an exhibition match as they had an outstanding afternoon.
“It was the best game I think we’ve played,” Wright said. “They play a different style of rugby from everyone else. They play a tighter game with their size and slower speed.
“It works well for the style we play. We can use our offensive speed and get around them.”
The Piggies opened the scoring around the 10-minute mark when Louis Gudmundseth, playing at inside centre in his debut First Division match of the season, planted the ball right under the post.
“It’s good to have him back out,” Wright said of Gudmundseth. “And for him to get on the board.”
About 10 minutes later, Owen Wood took a quick tap and sent the ball across the field where it was picked up by Danny Hamstra, who took it over the line for another try. Alberni slotted a penalty goal before halftime, but the Piggies led 14-3 after 40 minutes.
The second half seemed to drag on and on as they players battled each other and the rain.
“The weather started to come in on us,” Wright said. “We thought it was going to be rainy all day, but it held off in the first half.”
Matt Melgaard scored another try for Cowichan within the first five minutes of the second half, and Haele Ferguson added another a few minutes later, running about 30 meters after a broken play.
Hamstra scored his second after picking off a pass midway through the half, and Arthur Gray also had a try for the Piggies.
Alberni scored the last try of the match in the corner, and their young kicker hit the conversion from the sidelines. That wasn’t enough to outdo Wood, who nailed all six of his kicks on the day.
“He was pretty thrilled with himself,” Wright said.
Wright acknowledged his team still has a few things to work on in their own end, but he’s pleased with the progress this season.
“We’re definitely starting to see things clicking out there,” he said. “It’s later [in the season] than we’d like, but when we’re seeing that happen, it means the guys are doing their best out there.”
Cowichan will still play Alberni at least three more times this season, including one Times Cup game and two First Division matches. The Piggies’ next First Division match will take place on Jan. 26 when they host Port Alberni.
They will host Castaway Wanderers for a Times Cup game this Saturday at 1 p.m., Cowichan’s last match of the fall portion of the 2017/18 season.
Some Cowichan players may still get another game in before the end of 2018 as they have been asked to try out for the Crimson Tide for their Dec. 22 match against the Major League Rugby Seattle Seawolves at Westhills Stadium.
Cowichan’s captain last year, Jenner Teufel, who is playing with the University of Victoria this year, is also among the invited players.