A huge win over the Velox Valhallians last Saturday secured home-field advantage throughout the Vancouver Island Rugby Union playoffs for the First Division Cowichan Piggies.
In their most important game of the season so far, the Piggies topped Velox 26-11 at the Herd Road pitch, locking themselves into first place in the league.
Rain and mud created "trying conditions" on the field that meant, once again, that the Piggies were unable to play the fast, expansive style of rugby that suits them best.
"It was very wet and sloppy," head coach Gord McGeachy said. "Ball-handling was difficult again."
Regardless of the weather, Cowichan got off to a strong start in the match, controlling most of the play in the first half. Good forward work by Rob McDonnell led to the first try, about 10 minutes into the game. Not long after that, Owen Wood added to the total with a try that he converted himself.
A few minutes before halftime, Andrew Gudmundseth added to the damage with a try that Wood converted for a 19-0 Piggies lead.
At that point, the Piggies started to get into penalty trouble, and were awarded a yellow card late in the half, dropping their numbers to 14. Velox took advantage and kicked penalty goals late in the first half and early in the second to make it 19-6. The score stayed that way for some time, and then with about 10 minutes left in the match, Velox intercepted a Cowichan pass and ran it in for a try, which they failed to convert.
The missed convert came as a relief to the Piggies, as the extra two points would have cut their margin to less than one try.
Velox continued to press for more points, but with about four minutes left, Cowichan’s Peter Budina went over for a try to make it 26-11, putting the game out of reach.
In addition to the try-scorers, the Piggies also got a strong game from George Bantin at fullback, while Ty Jones played what McGeachy called "by far his best game of the season."
"They were definitely two standout performers on the weekend," the coach said.
As long as the Piggies keep playing on Vancouver Island, they will hold homefield advantage. They will try to put it to good use this Saturday when they play host to the Port Alberni Black Sheep in a league semifinal.
Cowichan has two wins and a loss against Port Alberni this season, and won’t be taking the Black Sheep lightly.
"We’ve lost two games this year, and one was to them," McGeachy noted.
In their last meeting, on March 29, Cowichan edged Alberni 20-17.
"Last week was a battle, but we scraped out a three-point win," McGeachy said. "We’re expecting another one."
The conditions are expected to be drier and sunnier this weekend, which should favour the Piggies.
"Fingers crossed that we’ll get to play our game," McGeachy said. "If not, we’ll do what we have to do."
In the other semifinal, the Nanaimo Hornets will visit the Valhallians.
"All the top four teams are evenly matched," McGeachy said. "Nanaimo and Velox will come down to who’s playing well on the day."