Baron Joel Gordon brings down a Hounds player during an exhibition match at LCHS on Saturday.
There can be a silver lining in a lopsided defeat.
A tough exhibition match against the reigning Saskatchewan rugby champions has provided the Lloydminster Comprehensive High School (LCHS) Barons a lesson toward what the team still needs to work on as well as an indication of the strides some of their players have already made. The Wilcox-based Athol Murray College of Notre Dame Hounds stood in as the teacher by scoring a 56-0 shutout of the Barons at LCHS on Saturday morning.
Steve Wytrykusz, coach of the Barons boys rugby team, said they played with the athletic Hounds squad for minutes at a stretch only to make a mistake leading to a try against. He said a lack of anticipation in team defence also hurt them, while the Hounds thrived at cutting off their space.
“We sat back, waited to see the ball move and then came forward,” said Wytrykusz about their difficulties on defence. “Five metres or seven metres makes a big difference in the attack. When we did do it correctly you could see the ball got more frantic for them and we caused turnovers.”
Hounds coach Doug Ross said they scored a majority of their tries by crashing in their forwards to exhaust one side of the field before quickly spinning the ball out to their backs for a run down the wing. He said on defence they line up five metres back in a scheme similar to a line of scrimmage in football and come up together to force the opposition to make mistakes.
“We have a special group here,” said Ross. “We have about eight or nine kids who have played together since Grade 9. We’re losing a big crop of them, (but) that’s a big thing too. It’s the familiarity and the fact that they’ve played together.”
Gareth Moffat, a lock for the Barons, said they’re going to be facing a strong Cold Lake High School Royals team this Thursday in the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association zones championship at LCHS, so the game against the Hounds should pay dividends. He said their defensive press and passing stood out as something that proved to still need a bit of work and they’ll address that at practice this week.
Wytrykusz said a positive that came out of their match versus the Hounds was the Barons players who stepped into a leadership role for the first time. He said Joel Gordon, Koen Pilkey and Brayden Bowan shook off their previous tentative play for a more aggressive attack, which the team will need again against the Royals.
“They’ll come at us with a strong, big group of forwards,” said Wytrykusz. “They’ll play primarily a forwards game and try and keep it tight. Our goal against them will be to move the ball into the speed of the backs and play with them toe-to-toe on the forwards.”