Kicking hasn’t been a strength of the Cowichan Piggies this season, but Jenner Teufel stepped up when he really needed to last Saturday and provided the conversion necessary to give his team a 25-24 win over Nanaimo and their first victory of the Cowichan Cup season.
Trailing 24-18 with four minutes to play, the Piggies got the ball and kicked it into the corner. They got it over the line once, but it was held up. On the next five-metre scrum, they managed to push it over, with Rob McDonnell dotting it down for a try. That put the Piggies down by one point with two points resting on Teufel’s ability to convert. Teufel nailed the difficult kick, and his team held on for the win.
“I told him, you’re only as good as your last kick, and this one was a beauty,” Piggies head coach Gord McGeachy said.
The entire match was just as intense as the one-point margin of victory would suggest.
“It was a very exciting, well-played rugby game by both teams,” McGeachy said.
Thanks to some newer players and new things they were trying, the Piggies got off to a rough start.
“We had a couple of new combinations going, and we had a pretty young team on the field,” McGeachy said. “We were expecting hiccups early, and we got them.”
The Hornets scored a try and converted it seven minutes in. Teufel responded with a penalty kick three minutes later, but another converted try gave Nanaimo a solid advantage.
“Twenty minutes in, we were down 14-3, and it wasn’t looking good,” McGeachy admitted.
Cowichan started getting more territory and more possession, and narrowed the gap to 14-8 with a try by Malcolm Sacht. The Piggies camped out in the Nanaimo end for the rest of the first half, striking again at halftime with a try from Mike Rea to trail by just one point with 40 minutes let to play.
“We were feeling pretty good about how we were playing,” McGeachy said. “There was a big momentum shift there.”
Cowichan led the way in terms of potential and territory in the first 10 minutes of the second half, and capitalized on that when Peter Budina sent a cross-field kick to Pat Large, who beat a couple of defenders before touching down in the end zone and giving the Piggies their first lead of the game, 18-14. They couldn’t add to that margin, however.
“We continued to press, but we couldn’t find a way to get any more points,” McGeachy said.
The tide changed again midway through the second half, and the Hornets were able to capitalize on some Cowichan penalties and go ahead again with 10 minutes left. Nanaimo got back into Cowichan’s end soon after that, and kicked a penalty goal to go up 24-18 with four minutes to play.
As time ticked away, McDonnell’s try and Teufel’s conversion put the Piggies ahead by a point with two minutes left, and they survived a 40-metre penalty kick that landed just short of the mark to hold on for the win.
“It was a very intense game all the way,” McGeachy said. “Being down by a large margin, then gaining the lead and losing it made for an exciting afternoon, absolutely.”
The Piggies were buoyed by the insertion into the lineup of several young players, including Noah Dobson, who returned from UVic to make his First Division debut, Mike Needham, who came back after missing more than a year with an injury, and Cody Mills, who got his first start at outside centre.
“That bodes well for the second half of the season, adding some depth and youthful energy, too,” McGeachy said.
The Piggies will hit the road this Saturday, visiting Westshore in Colwood.