It won’t be a perfect season unless it has a perfect ending.
The Nanaimo Hornets Div. 1 men’s rugby team takes to its home pitch this Saturday (Dec. 10) against the Port Alberni Black Sheep to play for the Vancouver Island championship.
The Hornets are undefeated this fall after going 8-0 in league play and then blowing out Westshore 55-17 in the semifinals last week.
The key to the Hornets’ success, say players, has been depth.
“We’re having a lot of buy-in from everybody…” said Drew Fisher, team captain. “There’s 22 guys on the squad, 15 guys starting, but we’re definitely 22 guys deep.”
He said it’s been an advantage because opponents don’t have that same depth. Brad Marshall, Hornets veteran, said it’s allowed his team to turn close games at halftime into lopsided wins.
Nanaimo is expecting the final against Alberni to be its toughest match yet, though.
“They’re a great physical team and we always strive to beat them and they always rise to the occasion,” said Ray Young, assistant coach.
He said his team will have to play together as a unit and concentrate on defending.
“They’ve got a very big and a very good forward pack and they like to use their big guys a lot,” Marshall said. “But I think if our guys step up to the game like we normally do and like we have these past couple of weeks, I don’t think we should have too [many] issues.”
Fisher said it’s two hard-nosed teams in the final, and he thinks the Hornets can gain an edge with their backs.
“We’ve got to dig deep and put in the hard yards and smash around the rock as much as we can and get it to our fast guys, good-looking guys out there to make us look good up front,” he said.
Marshall said the team wants to stick to its game, but go in with a do-or-die mindset.
“There’s no tomorrow when it comes to that game on Saturday,” he said. “So we’ve got to make sure that we come out and we’re all mentally prepared, ready to go and be willing to put our bodies on the line for that 80 minutes.”
One worry this week is the weather; if the pitch is unplayable, the game might have to be moved or rescheduled. The club will hope for the best so it can have the perfect ending it’s pursuing.
“The whole season’s actually been a lot of fun. It’s been fun being a part of the club,” Fisher said. “The old guys have been coming out for years and years and years and [now they’re] able to get out here and see some big wins put up. Guys are bringing their friends, their families; there’s lots of kids running around; it makes for a fun time.”
GAME ON … The Hornets and Black Sheep play for a championship this Saturday (Dec. 10) at 1 p.m. at May Richards Bennett Pioneer Park. Admission is free.