B.C. Bears drop opener in Canadian Rugby Championship

An opening game loss has the B.C. Bears facing a tough schedule ahead in the senior men’s 2013 Canadian Rugby Championship

The B.C. Bears face a tough schedule ahead in the senior men’s 2013 Canadian Rugby Championship as the Prairie Wolf Pack defeated the Bears 30-21 in the season opener on Saturday (Aug. 10) at UBC’s Wolfson Fields.

The four-year-old CRC tournament is a feeder for Canada’s entry into the 2013 Americas Rugby Championship, which returns to Westhills Stadium in Langford for Oct. 11 to 19. The CRC divides the nation into four teams with the Bears, Wolf Pack, Ontario Blues and Atlantic Rock.

Down one game in the five-game tourney, the Bears will regroup in preparation to host the next two matches over the Labour Day weekend as the reigning CRC champion Blues visit Westhills on Friday, Aug. 30, followed by the Atlantic Rock on Monday, Sept. 2.

Saturday’s loss to the Wolf Pack was the Bears’ debut under Jim Dixon, the newly appointed head coach of the Bears and CEO of B.C. Rugby.

“We were our own worst enemies,” he said. “We made too many errors and they [Wolf Pack] capitalized on them. With that said we showed plenty of potential in moments of the game and can build on that going forward.”

Dixon’s coaching staff includes Castaway Wanderers veteran Kenny Goodland as an assistant and former James Bay great and international Hans de Goede as the club’s manager.

“It was our first time having the full 22 together and our first game,” Goodland said. “No preseason games, just an intra-squad scrimmage, but that’s not a game. So I think we did alright.”

Goodland was particularly impressed with the play of the forward pack, which scored all three tries.

“Some of things we thought could go wrong with the forwards didn’t,” he said. “Line-outs were good, scrums were good, and all three tries were from forwards, so that was a very positive element to come out with.”

Locally, Oak Bay’s rugby presence was prominent for the Bears. Fullback Connor Braid converted all three tries, including one from former James Bay Athletic Association teammate and fellow Oak Bay High grad Callum Morrison, who is now with Vancouver’s Meraloma RFC.

Morrison’s try ended the game as the flanker crossed the line for B.C. in the 80th minute.

A trio of Oak Bay’s Castaway Wanderers, prop Clayton Thornber, centre Matt Buckley and winger Jonny Morris, also started for the Bears, with locally bred UVic Vikes Luke McCloskey (St. Michaels University School) at wing and Shea Wakefield (Oak Bay High) in the second row.

All 22 players saw time in the game, including reserves from the Vikes Dustin Dobravsky and Pat Kay, and James Bay’s Clayton Meeres.

Goodland said there will be some challenging decisions to make for the Labour Day weekend matches, as a number of B.C.’s top players will be available following a pair of Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifiers between Canada and the U.S.A. on Aug. 17 and 24.

Among them are James Bay veterans Sean White and Phil Mack, who’ve been selected at scrum half. Vikes great Adam Kleeberger is also healthy and likely to join the Bears for training this week.

“We hope to have a few additions but don’t want to disrupt the squad of guys who’re committed,” Goodland said.  “Some decisions are even tougher now because of good performances and sub-performances.”

The Bears will conclude the CRC season on the road in Ontario on Sept. 14 and Edmonton on Sept. 21.

sports@vicnews.com

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