Cowichan’s Matthew Jones tries to escape a Port Alberni defender during the Piggies win at home last Saturday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Cowichan Piggies win before they take pitch

First Division teams play even after forfeit

Shortly before the Cowichan Piggies’ First Division rugby match against the Alberni Valley Black Sheep last Saturday, it was revealed that, due to illness and guys being away working, Alberni would only be able to muster 12 players, one shy of the minimum required by BC Rugby.

Cowichan loaned Alberni a couple of players, and the teams still played a 14-man game at Piggy Park, but the predetermined result didn’t make for the best rugby.

“You could see the demeanor switched in the guys,” Cowichan coach Andrew Wright said. “It’s a hard game to play in that situation. Some things didn’t go well because of that change.”

Even before the teams took the field, the game went into the books as a 20-0 win for Cowichan, earning the Piggies a bonus point and improving their chances of winning the four-game series with Alberni.

“It was good for us,” Wright said. “But bad for the game and not so good for Port Alberni.”

Although the Piggies fitness — a result of training sessions under Dave Cowie at Brentwood College School — was evident, there was some clear hesitation among the players in a match where nothing was on the line.

“They’re wondering, ‘Do I put my body on the line?’” Wright said. “’Do I throw myself into this tackle or half-ass it?’”

The Piggies did get a boost in the lineup as Matthew Jones and Cody Milne returned after time away, and will be with the team for the rest of the season.

Cowichan will be off until St. Patrick’s Day, when they host Westshore. On April 2, they will play the last game of the Island series in Port Alberni. After the forfeit win, the Piggies are up 2-1 in the series, with a five-point lead in the standings, and a 24-point lead in point differential. Those numbers are very strong, but not insurmountable, Wright pointed out.

“We could go up there and give them a bonus-point win, but as long as it’s within 24 points, we win the series,” he said. “It’s a big hill for them to climb, but it’s always tough to hold on at the top.”

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