Not only are the Cowichan Piggies playing in the Vancouver Island Rugby Union’s Times Cup final this weekend, but they also have home-field advantage.
By virtue of their own 17-11 win over the Nanaimo Hornets last Saturday, and because fourth-seeded Port Alberni upset UVic in the other semifinal, the Piggies will host the Times Cup final this Saturday.
“We felt confident about our chances of beating Nanaimo, but we were a bit surprised that Alberni beat UVic,” Cowichan coach Gord McGeachy said. “It worked out for us.”
As expected, the Piggies’ contest in Nanaimo last Saturday was a close, brutal one.
“It was a very tough, extremely physical, hard game for us,” McGeachy said.
The Piggies got off to an excellent start as Mike Rea scored a try just three minutes in. Nanaimo chipped away and capitalized on a couple of penalties to go ahead 6-5. The Hornets got close to scoring a try after that, but the Piggies dug in and held them off.
“We had a tremendous defensive stand,” McGeachy said. “For about five minutes or 10 minutes, we were camped on our own goal line.”
Cowichan got out of that jam and worked their way down the field. They thought they had scored a try, but it was cancelled by the ref on a rare double movement call that was disputed by several nearby Cowichan supporters.
“I didn’t see it,” said McGeachy, who was stationed at the other end of the pitch. “So I can’t comment.”
The Piggies then took another penalty inside their 22-metre line, and Nanaimo was able to score to make it 11-5, which is where the score stood when the first half ended.
At the break, McGeachy told his players to keep doing what they were doing, and play to the referee better.
“We were taking a few too many penalties than we needed to,” he acknowledged.
The team, McGeachy said, responded pretty well to that. Early in the second half, Andrew Gudmundseth made a brilliant play on a clearing kick by Nanaimo, getting all the Hornets going the other way across the field before passing to Peter Budina, who scampered into the end zone untouched, getting Cowichan within a point.
The next 30 minutes were even as both teams had opportunities, but neither was able to score. Finally, with less than 10 minutes to go, the Hornets were penalized for a high tackle, which the referee had warned both teams about. Not long after that, Jenner Teufel took the ball through a gap in the Nanaimo line and fed it to Budina. Budina scored and Teufel kicked the conversion, and the Piggies took a 17-11 lead, setting up a “pretty tense” final five minutes.
The Hornets appeared to score again, but it was their turn to have a try called back, this time for a forward pass. The game ended when the Piggies tackled a Nanaimo ball-carrier out of bounds.
“It was a pretty exciting game,” McGeachy said. “Typical playoff rugby. It wasn’t the prettiest, but it was tense, very defensive-minded, physical rugby.”
The Times Cup final will kick off at Piggy Park at 1 p.m. this Saturday. The Piggies have had some success against Alberni this season, beating them once and playing to a tie in the other meeting.
“They’re a similar team to us,” McGeachy commented. “They play really good defence. They’ve got two players they really revolve around, one forward and one back. We need to focus really hard on shutting those guys down and stopping them from making an impact on the game.”