Haele Ferguson charges out of a ruck during the second half of the Piggies’ 27-24 win over Abbotsford on Saturday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Piggies go out on top with win in home-field finale

Cowichan will close out season in Surrey on Saturday

It looked like the Cowichan Piggies and Abbotsford Rugby Football Club just weren’t meant to face each other this year.

Both regularly scheduled matches between the First Division men’s teams were postponed this season, leaving Saturday’s makeup game as the last chance for the teams to square off.

When heavy winds and rains attacked the Salish Sea on Saturday morning and ferry cancellations seemed imminent, Cowichan head coach Andrew Wright resigned himself to not playing the match at all.

“I thought it was doomed,” he said. “I thought we wouldn’t play Abbotsford this year.”

The Fraser Valley team did end up making it to Vancouver Island, only for the Piggies to prevail 27-24 in some of the worst weather conditions Cowichan has faced this season.

“It was definitely the rainiest of the games we’ve played so far,” Wright said.

Abbotsford came into the match tied for second in the First Division, and while they missed out on the win, they did take two bonus points for scoring four tries and keeping the final score within seven points. The visitors came to Cowichan a little short on bodies, but still impressed Wright with their play.

“They’re definitely a good, strong club,” he said. “I’d say they were probably the most skilled club we’ve played, considering their numbers.”

The Piggies didn’t get off to their best start, and Abbotsford opened the scoring with a driving maul off a lineout in the first few minutes. Cowichan responded a few minutes later with an open-field try that went through three or four offloads before Ty Benson carried it over the line. Owen Wood converted and the Piggies led 7-5.

Abbotsford’s next try came from a scrum, one of the areas they dominated throughout the match.

“They were very good at scrummaging,” Wright said. “They pushed us over and picked the ball up and scored.”

The visiting side scored another try to close out the half, and the Piggies went to the break trailing 17-7.

Early in the second half, Pat Large, in just his second game back with the club after an extended absence, picked up a cross-field kick from Danny Hamstra and scored, with Wood’s convert narrowing the gap to three points. Louis Gudmundseth scored off a Cowichan lineout to give the Piggies a 21-17 lead, and Wood kicked a penalty goal to extend Cowichan’s lead to seven points. Then Abbotsford scored off another scrum to tie it at 24-24 with 20 minutes left.

Wood restored Cowichan’s lead with a penalty kick from quite a distance, and the team held on for the remaining 17 minutes to secure the win.

“It was good for the boys to close out the home part of the season with a win,” Wright said. “It was a good game. Everyone wanted to close out the season on a high at home.”

The Piggies head to Surrey this coming weekend to visit the Beavers in a high-stakes game. Currently third in the First Division, the Beavers could still move past Abbotsford into second.

“It should be a battle,” Wright said. “They obviously want to go into the playoffs as the higher seed.”

Cowichan has a small chance of sneaking into the playoffs themselves, but they will need several things to happen, including a bonus-point win over the surging Surrey side.

“There’s a slight chance,” Wright said. “Definitely a slim chance.”

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