Barrie Sky Blues moving up following win over Niagara
Chad McLeaming of the Barrie Rugby Club takes part in a recent practice at the Barrie Community Sports Complex in Midhurst. The Barrie Sky Blues have gained promotion to the Ontario Rugby Union's Marshall League following a win over Niagara. MARK WANZEL/FILE PHOTO
The Barrie Sky Blues squeaked past the Niagara Wasps, 25-24, on Saturday to gain promotion to the Ontario Rugby Union’s Marshall Championship League.
It was the only rugby game all season that the Sky Blues had to play in the rain, but not even the weather could dampen this day.
“It took us about 20 to 25 minutes to get our hands in front of us and I think second half we figured it out and moved everyone in a bit tighter, and that’s what we had to do,” said Sky Blues back Rory Tomlinson.
Trailing Niagara 17-7 at half, the Sky Blues knew they couldn’t let the same thing happen two years in row.
“Last year, we literally came within one point of moving up,” said assistant coach Josh Morgan, “This year, we moved up by one point. I guess what goes around comes around.”
After finishing their Toronto Rugby Union season 11-0 with the best record, the Sky Blues outduelled a Niagara Wasps team (from the Niagara Rugby Union) which was also unbeaten coming into this game.
It was Richard Bethel’s 40-yard penalty kick that proved to be the difference. His boot just sailed between the uprights late in the second half to give the Sky Blues a one-point lead.
Scrum half Zac Day says Bethel has risen to the occasion time and time again,
“Our kicker this year, he’s been unbelievable. He’s just always on the money when it comes to Saturdays," he said. "We can always rely on him for those big kicks at the end.”
The 40-yard kick was Bethel’s farthest all season. He finished the game with two penalty kicks and two converts for 10 points.
Tomlinson also ran in a pair of tries. With the absence of players to school, he lined up at fly half instead of his usual outside centre.
Sky Blues assistant coach Josh Morgan says Tomlinson’s versatility is always a huge asset for their team.
“Rory’s a super dynamic player," he said. "He can make things happen wherever he is.”
Tomlinson is quick to give his forwards praise for the pair of tries he scored on Saturday.
“It was a testament to our big boys that sucked everyone in and that opened up gaps for me, so it’s really all on them,” Tomlinson said humbly.
Talent-wise, there wasn’t much to choose between these teams, so the Sky Blues made sure to bring extra heart.
“Our pursuit, our physicality and our desire to win gave us more chances to win than we gave up,” Morgan said. “We didn’t leave it up to chance to make mistakes, we forced them to make mistakes and give us the ball back.”
For 21-year-old Day, it was an especially meaningful win because he’s been with the club since he was just six years old.
“It’s unbelievable because I’ve grown up seeing the boys play in this league (ORU). Two years ago, when we got dropped down, it was a little bit of heartbreak, but we’re back where the boys deserve to be,” Day said.
The coaching staff also deserve a lot of praise for guiding the Sky Blues back to the Marshall Championship League. John Dagget and Morgan took over as coaches of the program just prior to last season.
Assistant coach Josh Morgan says their hard work has paid off.
“John Dagget and I put in a long year last year, putting in a lot of new systems that the guys weren’t used to," he said. "This year, we hit the ground running more and it was just ironing out the kinks. I think that showed going 11-0.”
Next season is still far away, but after accomplishing all of the goals they set out for themselves this year, the Sky Blues see no reason why they can’t play with the best teams in the Marshall league.
“For us it’s a whole new expectation,” Morgan said. “But I’m very confident that we will be a pretty competitive squad just with the will to win alone.”
The only way to make this year even sweeter for the Sky Blues is if their second’s team can move up to the Marshall Championship league with them.
They compete in the Gee Gage Cup promotion tournament, which starts this weekend. Barrie hosts the Aurora Barbarians at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Barrie Community Sports Complex.