Train at Twist

Train at Twist
Twist Conditioning keeps the Rowers FIT!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Prems Finish With a Flurry, Beat The Ravens at Jericho.

The Rowers Scrum Was Dominant Against the Ravens Saturday (File Photo)

The VRC Prems put on a dominant performance this past Saturday, earning a convincing 27-7 victory against the Ravens at Jericho. The Elite Division came into the game with determination, anxious to get back in the win column after two tough losses to Burnaby Lake.

Brian Derham (centre) was 2 for 4 on conversions (File Photo)
The Rowers struck first following a brief feeling out period, as Brian Durham slotted a penalty kick to open it up 3-0. The Ravens answered quickly making it 7-3 on try that threaded the defensive line and a good conversion. Following the Ravens try, the Rowers were able to sort their defensive process out, and put on a clinic for the rest of the game. While definition and positioning played an important part in the Prems’ defensive success, outstanding individual defensive efforts by George Richmond, Brian Durham, Tommy Hanson and Michael Jordan were instrumental in shutting the door. Fullback Kevin Gurniak chased down a breakaway runner to save a try in a thrilling never-say-die episode that summed up his team’s attitude.
The Rowers’ were relentless in attack, finally finding the stride they had been looking for all season. The scrum was especially sound. A front row of Keegan Watcham-Roy, Jason Carton and Nico Crawczyk capably controlled the push in offense and defense, matching technique and looking thoroughly experienced against an excellent opponent. Halfbacks Andrew Meakin and Richie Thomas orchestrated a pattern that used the forward pack to wear out defenders before having a go out wide to exploit gaps in the defense. The strong runners in the pack would prove able to make the necessary yards on their own, though. The forwards stayed ready to run strong lines off of 9 when called, and picked from the base with an impressive urgency in the instances that Meakin found himself buried in the ruck. Watcham-Roy would put in a try, as would 8th man George Richmond.

Kevin Gurniak (top left) executed the perfect chase-down tackle (file photo)
The back line ran exceptional yards, forcing the Ravens to chase them about the park and make cover tackles, eventually wearing down and frustrating the hosts. Winger Caleb Hansen ended up with two tries, and could easily have had three had play not been called for a questionable forward pass call that was followed by a dustup that drew red cards for two Ravens players and Rowers out-half Richie Thompson (who really didn’t deserve it).

Derham slotted 2 of 4 conversions to go along with his opening penalty tally. Several outstanding performances didn’t end up on the score sheet including an impassioned performance at centre back by Rory McClennan and a typically great (and quick) outing by “Greyhound” Brett Lucas. James Pond Jones was solid in the line out winning Rowers’ throw-ins and causing a decent nuisance on opponent ball.

The victory at Jericho avenged a heartbreaking 19-15 loss in what had to be the 88th minute of the season’s opening game on a Ravens’ try by a runner who everyone but the touch judge saw step into touch. The win was well received by a Rowers core who had been on the wrong end of a tough first half that felt like a continuation of a very difficult second half the year. The Rowers’ fall season included the aforementioned theft of an opening game, a difficult 30-32 loss at rival Capilanos in October, and a 20-17 loss to Burnaby Lake last weekend. In their 6 losses, the Rowers’ average margin of defeat was 10.8 points. Factoring out a 34-6 loss to Mainland Cup Finalist and Premier League leader UBC in week 2, that margin drops to 7.4 points. To a man, the Rowers are confident in their talent and their ability to work together to play winning rugby in the BC Premiership. To the team that showed up on Saturday, a mathematical improvement of 12 points per game feels like an enjoyable goal over the coming Christmas break.

The Rowers Thirds play in the Mainland Third Division Plate Final Against the Brit Lions at John Oliver Park in Delta this coming Saturday November 28th. It will be the final Rowers Game of 2015.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Prems vs. Burnaby, Thirds vs. Squamish Axemen November 14th.


The Thirds played to a 17-17 draw against the Squamish Axemen this past Saturday. The Rowers came out strong, scoring a converted try early before soft defense allowed Squamish to put one in to make it 7-5. Another score made it 10-7 and some lackluster defense by the thirds allowed let an undersized but nimble Squamish pack to make yards and score under the posts, the conversion making it 17-7.

The Thirds battled back in the waning minutes with an unconverted try to make it 12-7. With no time left on the clock, flanker Luc Gourdine picked a ball up from the behind a ruck before the opposition saw it leave, shot by the posts and scored un-touched just outside the posts to tie the score. The Rowers conversion attempt went begging, solidifying the draw at the final whistle. 


The VRC First Fifteen lost in Burnaby Lake by a score of 13-27. Coach Sabell described the first half of  the game as “the best half of rugby we’ve played all year.”  The Prems were up 13-0 at the half on 2 penalties from centre back Brian Durham and a converted try from winger Kevin Gurniak. The second half started poorly with a number of unforced errors that proved tough to recover from. The Rowers then lost Eighth man George Richmond to a yellow card for tackling a quick tap without being back 10m. The Rowers then allowed 2 tries in under 5 minutes and were unable to get back on track. Substitutes made a late difference, especially tight head prop Chris Seyler, but it wouldn’t be enough, as the Prems lost in Burnaby for the second time in as many weeks.
Thirds are away at Surrey this Saturday, and the Prems and 1st div are scheduled to play the Ravens away.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Burnaby Games Nov 6th 2015

All three divisions were in action against Burnaby Lake this past Saturday.

Textbook Jackal by Gus the Bus
Photo by M..Cox
The VRC First Division played  excellent rugby at Burnaby Lake this past weekend, coming from behind to beat the hosts 25-10. The Rowers took care of the ball in wet, sloppy conditions, successfully working it through phases until they could get it to their impact players. On a day when points were hard to come by in all divisions, the Firsts  put up a resepectable 25 points, 20 of which were scored by Austrailan phenomenon centre back Adriaan Meiring, who didn’t seem bothered by the conditions. Young Trevor Canton, out for a run at fullback, was also able to put one in. The forward pack, led by a classic performance from Captain Brendan Fagan, asserted themselves in the rucks and made themselves hard to drop, creating the type of space they need to work in the muck. Will Andreucetti stood out at blindside flank, making several key tackles and carries, as did substitute 2nd row Devon Moore, brought in  after a strong run with the thirds for an injured Sean Dignan (get well soon, Sean.)

Johnny O'Brien Slotted 2 Perfect Penalty Kicks
Photo: N.Spuls
Despite a physically strong and aggressive game, the Prems were unable to put any points on the board in Burnaby, losing 15-0 in the aforementioned sloppy conditions. The Rowers lost halfback Andrew Meakin to a questionable yellow card for what was deemed by the Referee to be an intentional knock on. The Prems didn’t lose the game for lack of effort. They trailed 8-0 until a very late try, knocking on the door several times but were unable to play the wide open, quick game that suits this team’s strength.

Johnny Brennan Secures Rowers Ball in the Lineout
Photo: N.Spuls

The Rowers Thirds lost another heart breaker 7-6 in Burnaby. Despite failing to cross the line, the thirds played strong, hard rugby for all 80 minutes and looked like contenders. Fullback John O’Brien was 2 for 3 on penalty kicks in terrible weather. The Rowers defended well, shutting Burnaby down on their goal line twice, which was obviously one time less than necessary.

The Prems will get another crack at Burnaby Lake next Saturday November 14th in the first round of a knockout playoff to end the first half. The Firsts will also have a rematch against Burnaby Lake. The Third division will try to go 4-3 against the Squamish Axmen at Brockton.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post indicated that the Firsts were on a bye week instead of playing on the Burnaby Lake undercard . The Rowers Ruck Muck regrets the error.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

The Rowers Tour to Remember is Big News

We're on TV!

Tour Captain Jamie Overgaard did us all proud on the 6 O'Clock news tonight.

Anyone interested in remembering Canadian and VRC Veterans can come down to the clubhouse this Wednesday November 11th around 4pm. I understand there will be a slide show from the Tour to Remember.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Rowers Homestand Roundup


The VRC Prems split their past two home games against the Meralomas and Seattle Seracens, respectively, ­­­in a continuation of a season in which they have trailed as the clock expired too frequently.

The Meralomas game Oct. 24th made it clear that the top side was capable of making things go their way and playing elite rugby in this league, earning the win and a bonus point with a 45-17 victory. Flanker Connor McCann scored 3 tries, English eighth man Tommy Hanson scored his first as a Rower, out half Richie Thompson put in a beauty, and hooker Jason Carton looked excellent running one in from about 15 yards out. Brian Durham was near perfect on conversions, kicking six of seven, plus a penalty. The Rowers attacked at pace and limited mistakes against the Lomas, building momentum off of success and making the game seem easy against a talented team.

The Rowers Reset after their fourth or fifth try vs. the Lomas

The Elite division were less successful on the 24th of October against Seattle, falling 23-14 in a very wet, very physical game. The Rowers were in the game, but couldn’t establish control or run pattern off of the front foot.  The Rowing Club defense looked good for periods but was spotty overall and not good enough to hold a big Seattle side’s consistent pressure back. Super-sub scrum half Duncan James scored a try for the VRC and Carton scored his second in as many games. Brian Durham slotted both conversions.


The VRC First division scored four tries at home against the Maralomas, but were unable to secure a victory, falling 36-27 for what can only be described as a lack of defense. The firsts played hard rugby and moved the ball efficiently, but were unable to stop the Maralomas attack and avoid the sting of dropping a very winnable game at home. Fly half Andrew Meakin and blind side winger Nik Samija both scored tries, while noted score sheet hog centre Adriaan Meiring scored his usual two tries and one penalty kick, along with two conversions.

Matt Cox congratulates Simon Taylor on the All Blacks RWC victory.

The Firsts bounced back in the October 31st games against Seattle, practically breaking the scoreboard with a 63-22 tally. The Rowers scored points early and often, running a wide open pattern and limiting mistakes with the ball in hand. Tight head prop Greg “Gus The Bus” Crowe played a phenomenal game, showcasing running and ball handling skills beyond what one might expect from a big man and scoring one of nine Rowers Firsts tries on the day. Captain Brendan “Baldy” Fagan also put one in, as did halfback Andrew Meakin. Centre Graham Turner, freshly arrived from Alberta, scored his first with the Rowers and fullback Brandon Balon continued a strong campaign with a try of his own. Open winger Kevin Gurniak and Meiring scored 2 tries each, Meiring kicking four conversions and two penalty kicks.


The Rowers thirds disappointed the home crowd at Brockton on Oct 24th, falling 29-20 to a strong Maralomas side that proved better at limiting mistakes and penalties than their hosts. The thirds were able to move the ball for the most part, but were unable to get the handle on some messy and poorly defined rucks. The first half was close, the Rowers even holding a one point lead (8-7) on a try by blind flanker Luc Gourdine and a penalty by fly half John O’Brien. But poor defending and excess penalties allowed the ‘Lomas to score three quick tries. Rowers mistakes in attack squandered chances at equalizing. The Rowers made another push behind a second penalty by O’Brien, and a try by 2nd row Brett Illing, but would end up short. The thirds looked disorganized and were clearly in need of tighter unit work.

The third division would look for revenge the following week against the Britt Lions but come up only two points short, losing 20-18 to a strong but beatable team.

The Rowers fell behind early, giving up two early tries. As the game looked like it might get away from them in the first half, Kiwi player-coach Brett Russell – fresh off of watching his native All Blacks take home the Rugby World Cup that morning -placed a perfect cross kick into the hands of a quickly moving Evan Hughes right at the goal line to put the home team and the home crowd back in it. Hughes showed excellent skills at the open wing position for the whole game, proving nearly impossible to tackle with ball in hand. Blind winger Luc Gourdine also had a great game, scoring his second try in as many games, but it wasn’t quite enough. The Rowers mounted a final push trailing by two points but were unable to get close enough for points before time expired.

All three teams are away at Burnaby on Saturday November 7th. We’ll see all of you there.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Thirds Beat Caps, Top Teams Lose Close

The Rowers Third Division turned in a convincing 24-11 win this past Saturday against the Capilanos at Klahanie. Short numbers all week, and without the benefit of having drilled together, the Thirds leaned on experience. They ran the ball in space and remained physically dominant in tackles and at the breakdown. Centre back Evan Hughes had a great game, featuring a few good long runs and two tries. Hughes’ speed and a talent for tackling make him the type of standout that the Thirds risk losing to a higher division. Brian Andrerson’s Rowers resurgence continued as he scored a try off of a between-the-legs feed from Godfather Steve MacGillivary. Anderson was also carded (yellow) for a high tackle, which put him an injury short of the “Patty O’Gorman Hattrick”.

Brian Anderson - File Photo
MacGillivary Executes a more conventional pass

Fullback John O’Brian, who suffered a bad concussion the last time he played at Klahanie, played with great class, hitting 2 of 4 conversions. Eighth man Will Andreucetti scored a beautiful try picking from the base after a hard charge by 2nd Row Brett Illing, who had a characteristically strong, physical game. The try capped a drive that went the length of the pitch, and began with a quick jackal by an opportunistic Brian Andrews while the Rowers were backed up against their own goal line.

The Rowers Firsts (Library Square Division) lost a very physical game to the Caps by a score of 29-20, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. The Rowers showed tremendous defense against a physical and hard running Caps team, and declined to sink to retribution in a decidedly dirty game. Outside center Adrian Meiring filled the score sheet for a second straight week, tallying a try on a beautiful give and go with inside centre Luke Baker, two conversions and two penalty kicks. Baker had several punishing tackles that may have been audible from the top of Grouse Mountain. Club newcomer, flyhalf Rory McClennan, set up the third try with a lightning quick pass to the blind side from the base of the ruck. Young Brendan Balon, playing his first game at fullback, took the pass at pace and continued on through to the end-goal. Captain Brendan Fagan praised his squad after the game for showing emotional and physical toughness on the road against a team that out-weighed them considerably. This Firsts team is showing a lot of talent and a lot of guts. The Ruck Muck predicts that the success will come as experience playing together stitches them tighter as a unit.

The Rowers Premier Team (Mainland Cup Division) lost yet another heartbreaker to a very physical and talented Capilanos Team by a score of 32-30 in the last minute. Irish hooker Jason Carton scored 2 great tries in an excellent effort and spearheaded a technically proficient scrum that performed very well against a Caps pack that had a distinct weight advantage. Caleb Hansen scored a try off the wing from a beautiful inside feed by fullback Ben Harris. Centre Brian Durham played a phenomenal game, converting all three tries, adding three successful penalties for good measure and having what would have been a sure try off of turnover ball called back for being offsides, which he clearly was not.

Coach Jeremy Sabell will be expecting the Prems to be more physical and defend better than they have been this coming Saturday at home against the Maralomas. Despite losing key individuals to injury, this squad is playing good rugby and has been a solid contender in every game they’ve played so far.

All three teams are at home at Brockton against the Maralomas this coming Saturday. Come on out and show your support!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Rowers 1 and 1 at UBC Oct 10th, drop both Ravens Games Oct. 3rd

The Rowing Club “Super 2s” first division side gutted out a well-earned 21-15 win Saturday against UBC behind a standout performance by center back Adriaan Meiring and a solid effort from all players and substitutes. Meiring scored the first 3 of the Rowers’ 21 points on the day, converting an offside penalty from just inside the 22 around the 23’ mark.

Adriaan Meiring missed 1 of his conversions on Saturday.
File Photo
UBC pressed shortly afterwards, but hard defense turned the ball over and gave the Rowers a chance to kick it clear. Mounting a strong attack shortly afterwards, Meiring took advantage of a penalty about 15 meters out, carrying a quick tap across the line to score in the corner and make it 8-0. A well-drilled UBC team was able to put one in at the 29’ mark, finding rhythm in a quick attack slowed down by a wet pitch. They slotted the conversion to make it 8-7. Relentless, the Rowers forwards were able to turn it over cleanly in a ruck and get the ball back to Meiring (again), who crossed the line in the corner, but put it down under the posts to make the kick a gimmie and the score 15-7.

The huddle at the half featured Captain Brendan Fagan and coaches Mergui and Crowe reminding the squad of the previous week’s game against the Ravens, and the early lead squandered to penalties and lapsed defense.

The young UBC side brought on fresh substitutes, including several summertime rugby league standouts, and were able to renew their high paced attack to put in another try and make it 15-12. Undaunted, the Rowers were able to defend well and tackle hard. The red and white turned a loose ball over cleanly around midfield at the 30, frustrating UBC into coming into the ensuing breakdown from the side and earning Meiring yet another shot at a penalty, which he converted. 18-12. UBC answered with a penalty of their own, making it 18-15, before Meiring slotted his final contribution on the day, making it 21-15.

The well-conditioned Thunderbirds put on a strong attack with ball in hand and no time on the clock, but strong defense including several punishing tackles by 8th man Alex Nichols kept them out of the end-goal until they eventually knocked it on to end the game.

Having scored three penalties, two tries and one conversion for all of the Rowers’ 21 points, Adriaan Meiring is no doubt wondering how he managed to miss that one conversion.


The Rowers Premier side fared poorly against UBC, scoring only 2 penalty kicks to put up against a 34 point performance by the hosts.
This one was all UBC, with the Birds scoring from phase play, then from a maul, then by taking advantage of an overlap on the wing, and finally from an 8th man pick off of a scrum.

The Prems were still trying to shake off a last minute loss to the Ravens the previous week, coming as the Ravens ran in a try in a half that ran conspicuously long, on a try scored by a player that the entire sideline saw go in to touch, with the exception of the touch judge. The Ravens game represented a disappointing end to a well-fought and entertaining performance that featured a 70 yard try from an interception by scrum half Duncan James, and a strategic kick into touch by notable back row forward Michael Jordan, who looked surprisingly comfortable booting it a good distance to the near sideline and chasing his teammates into onside positions as it bounced out in good field position.
Returning fullback Caleb Hansen kept the Ravens off the board with a fantastic cover tackle in what linear chronological time showed was the final minute, only to have the Ravens eventually punch through, miss the conversion to keep it 15-14 VRC, and lose 19-15 on the aforementioned tightrope job as the timekeeper’s watch expired.

Overall, despite two disappointing results, morale remains strong. The feeling in the clubhouse is that this Rowers club has what it takes to contend in the CDI Premiership. All three divisions will be away at Klahanie against arch rival Capilanos next week.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Tour Journal: The Rowers Tour To Remember Takes on The Foxes in Bedlinog

Once upon a time God made a rugby pitch. He put it in a lush green valley among rolling hills and quaint stone houses along a winding road. There were green trees on each sideline and the practice pitch was made of the same soft ground and green grass as the playing pitch. The sheds were big enough for both teams, and there was a set of monkey bars for the kids. The posts and the lines were straight. He called it “Bedlinog” and he put it in Wales.

The on-field part of the Tour to Remember wrapped up against the Bedlinog Foxes. The Rowers kicked off in the first half, running downhill on a sloped pitch. The Welsh team was well organized, preferring to work up the middle and make use of a strong pack. They picked from the base and controlled the game well, communicating in a unique and unintelligible chatter that I was later told was in-fact English. The Foxes got on the board first, scoring a well-earned try and slotting the conversion. Germany-based Rowing Club tour fixture Mark Lovell was then able to put one in for the Rowing club, the conversion chance went begging, leaving the score at 7-5 Bedlinog.

The hosts answered quickly, playing a level of rugby yet unseen on the VRC tour. Bedlinog kicked for position, won lineouts and generally took the approach that one would expect out of craftsmen who took their trade seriously. The home crowd cheered as the conversion capping another forward try split the sticks, making it 14-5 Bedlinog.

The Rowers responded after a few inside phases by getting the ball wide to a seemingly unstoppable Maverick Seed streaking along the wing to create a 2 on 1 with Nik Samija. Maverick, having his third stormer of a game, worked a textbook give and go with Samija, committing the defender and making a feed into space for Nik to finish all alone.

Touring rugby sides don’t do much kicking. The Rowers Euro side did not carry anyone professing to be a kicker, and I’ll spare those who filled in when necessary the embarrassment of naming them. The Rowers didn’t kick for position, the Rowers didn’t kick for points and when it came time to kick conversions, we were nearly hopeless. However, on this lone occasion, Nik having put it in directly under the posts, somebody split the sticks. 14-12 for Bedlinog at half time.

Disco Stu Doesn't Advertise
In the halftime huddle, coach Mergui pointed out that the only thing working was getting it outside, and that we ought to do more of that. So we did. The Rowers received the 2nd half kick and immediately played it out to our talented backs, who made good yards. “Disco” Stu Holland carried an excellent first half into a dazzling second half, as he worked his trademark dance move / show and go successfully to create chances and breaks for the visitors. Playing with a nasty goose egg under his right eye left over from the Ironsides game, Stu put together a memorable run up the middle through space that must have left three or four defenders reaching at nothing or nursing broken ankles.

The customary pregame talk with the referee had been the standard discussion, delivered by a kindly old Welsh man who had volunteered to help out for this friendly. The captains had implored us to take it easy on this nice man and limit the backchat. The grumbling was kept to a minimum as Bedlinog’s slowing of production went un penalized. But when South African standout winger Dave Andersen burned two men on sheer speed, then fought through a tackle and put the ball down in the corner only to have it called a knock-on, all pretense of civility left the Rowers’ sideline in an eruption. Samija couldn’t speak clearly for the rest of the tour after that.

Andersen fights off a tackle

An off center penalty to Bedlinog in the visiting 22 gave them a chance to showcase their flawless kicking game, slotting a beauty that was solidly booed from the Rowers sidelines, making it 17-14 for the hosts. Undaunted, the Rowers battled for a good 15 minutes, holding on to the ball and building simple phases until a marauding Brett Illing picked and went from the base to punch one in and give the Rowers a 19-17 lead.

But on that night in the Welsh valleys, under stadium lighting and in front of the dogs and children of a town of 2,000 who care about rugby in the same way as the Rowing Club faithful who gather at Brockton in February downpours do, fortune was not on the Rowers side. Bedlinog put in a final try to go up 24-19 after kicking a flawless conversion.

A Dapper Markus SK Observes With the Rowers Bench
Up the hill at the clubhouse, we watched the Fiji-England world cup game together and ate sausages with chips and gravy. After losing the standard man-of-the-match boat race by only a few ounces, we were given another chance with our choice of contenders and still lost. We learned new drinking games and spotted a shirt on the wall from a BC club who had visited long ago. We lingered as long as we could, and traded shirts and stories. The clubhouse party was still hopping when we left.

As we ate our sausages, I eavesdropped on Rowers scrumhalf Gerard Lynch discussing on field strategy with a teammate who had come along as a supporter. Asked why, when given a penalty inside the 22 with a three point deficit, he elected to go with a crash ball to the pack instead of kicking for points that would have tied it up.
“Honestly," Lynch answered, "it never even occurred to me.”

Friday, September 18, 2015

Rowers Touring Side v. Battersea Ironsides RFC: The Tour to Remember Remains Undefeated

Rowers Pregame Huddle at Battersea

It was a wet one
Rain fell over London in a steady, cold, grey downpour as the Rowing Club Euro Touring Side bussed to the borough of Battersea to take on the Ironsides in the second match of the great 2015 Tour to Remember. I had hoped as we rode there that the rain would let up a bit before kickoff, but it just got harder in rolling waves during the warmup, dialing back every now and then to a steady downpour.

The Ironsides playing pitch is about a kilometer from their clubhouse and warm-up pitch, so we walked there along cobbled English streets in full kit and boots, already soaked to the bone. The lines on the pitch had long been washed away by rain, and puddles had gathered atop several mud pits of unknown depths.

Not a lot of traction in this scrum
The Rowers came out strong, recovering a greasy loose ball and working through phases after receiving the opening kick. The Ironsides played hard defense, especially near their own goal line. They were able to absorb a few phases before Dave Hall fought off a two man tackle to open the scoring. The conversion missed and it was five to nil for the Rowing Club.

A few more wet phases after the re-start, winger Nik Samija got the ball in space for a long run up the outside. Tour Captain and noted minute hog Jamie Overgaard then carried it on a pick, drew the defender and set up veteran VRC front row forward Mark Smith for a try from about 5 yards out, running through defenders on the way. Ten to nil Rowing Club.

Parlato chats with the locals
The Ironsides turned it over again inside their own 22, and the VRC was able to get it to a hard charging Luc Gourdine, who proceeded to score the full-dive splashdown try of everyone’s dreams directly under the sticks. Godfather Stevie MacGillivray put the conversion in to make it seventeen to nil VRC.
Gourdine would later be sent off on a yellow in the 2nd half for attempting to tackle a Battersea player on his way from the end goal to the 22m to kick a drop out. He presumably felt shame.

The Ironsides knocked on the VRC door with multiple goal line phases at the end of the half, but were unable to put one in before the end of the first 30 min half, and had to go into the half with nothing.

The Rowers kept up their excellent defense initially, defending hard inside their own 22, but were unable to capitalize on chances, including an impressive 40 yard gallop by Samija. Perhaps suddenly realizing that they were in danger of getting shut out on their home pitch by a Canadian touring side that has been drunk for a week the Ironsides turned it on, scoring a converted try to make it 17-7, following that up with an unconverted try to make it 17-12 and leave the Rowers sideline wondering what the hell happened.

Curry time!
The Rowers re-grouped and pounded hard picks from the base of the ruck right up to a goal line that had been thoroughly washed away (and that I swear I was over with the ball to the ground, but whatever), before turning it over and allowing the hosts to move the ball the length of the field to tie the game with another try.
Watching a 17 point lead evaporate in the final 15 minutes of a game took a bit of the air out of a previously pumped VRC team, but it all came back as the Ironsides conversion attempt clanged off the spot where the cross bar met the uprights, and the final whistle went, sealing a 17-17 draw.

Brass pump taps and their operator
Battersea are excellent hosts. They fed us curry and rice with pints of bitters pumped out of old brass taps by a man that looked as though he had been doing it since the Heath administration.  A member told me that the club was founded by a tank commander after the second world war, to keep Battersea youth from getting into mischief with nothing else to do. The club are very proud to have the largest youth program in Britain. An autographed England National shirt hangs on the wall from Kyle Sinckler, who credits his success to the early stewardship of the Ironsides youth program.

Once the kit dries out, we’ll put it all on again for another game in Wales ahead of a Canada - Ireland clash at the World Cup. Stay tuned as the Rowers Euro Tour rolls on, undefeated.

Rowers Euro Tour Visits Grave Sites of Fallen Players

Rowing Club Wreath at the Vimy Ridge Monument

The Great War, at least the physical part of it, was brutally simple. “Rolling Barrage” is an elegant way of saying “They blew everything up, sent men in to carve up anyone left over with bayonets, then set up and did it again. Do it right, and do it enough, and you’ve gained a square of bombed-out mud covered in bodies of people who, until recently, worked at jobs and wrote letters home and played rugby.

Restored Trenches at Vimy Ridge
Behind all of that messy simplicity, ran a complicated machine that managed the logistics. It leveraged enormous amounts of toil from the people back home to keep their recently departed and newly endangered men fed, clothed, and medicated to the point they stayed alive long enough to die usefully. The management layer, in turn, responded to a larger and more complicated political and financial machine that knew something about the why of it all. Reasons were probably abstract concepts to people who’s feet were rotting off. They were past the “why’s” at that point.

So the Rowers went to Vimy Ridge to learn about it. We saw underground tunnels where thousands of Canadian kids gathered in silence for 36 hours before being sent in across a smoking mud patch to be used as human weapons. We saw where messengers got thin sleep between high-speed trips back and forth from the front – white armbands keeping them from being shot as defectors as they ran back. The tour guide said a messenger’s average life span was five days.

Military Cemetery in France
The monument on the ridge is beautiful and very large. It has to be to fit all of those names. The team laid a wreath for Russell Kerfoot Johnston, a VRC member, and Cam Tompkins read the first of many biographies by grave sites. Johnston was a stockbroker who lived on Harwood Street in the West End. The 33-year-old came from Manitoba and worked in an office and played rugby.

The military cemeteries of Northern France and Belgium are neatly maintained. They dot the countryside among farms and very old brick buildings. White headstones of soldiers are marked: name, rank, crest of country, year born, year buried. Sometimes there’s an inscription. Sometimes there is no name or year of birth. The inscription on those ones read, “Known unto God.”

Steve Somers lays a poppy
In Ypres, the war memorial monument is at the town’s gateway, a grand archway over the main road. Like Vimy, it has to be big. We found the names of the guys who played for the club. They probably chased geese off Brockton and hated conditioning drills but went hard at them anyway. They probably looked forward to jars at the club on Thursday nights. They definitely left it all out there on Saturdays, because that’s the way it’s done, like they left it all out there in Ypres, too.

We laid the Ypres wreath at the war memorial as part of the nightly last post ceremony. Rowing Club players read the simple bios of players who didn’t get to come back, and didn’t get to be veterans, and didn’t get to be alumni. I took pencil rubbings of their names from the monument wall and went out to enjoy Ypres with my friends.