The James Bay Athletic Association proved once again you can’t under value experience.
Captain Spencer Dalziel and fellow veteran Nolan Miles each scored a try and led the Bays to a come-from-behind Barnard Cup victory over the UVic Vikes 26-23 on Friday night.
It’s the Bays’ sixth Island championship in seven years, all against the Vikes, and this year’s win came in the last three minutes of the game. It’s also the 57th time the Bays have won the Barnard Cup in the trophy’s 102-year history.
“We’ve won over 50 per cent of the (Barnard Cups) so that’s always nice,” Dalziel said. “With the Vikes it’s always an 80-minute game. In our history (against UVic) we’ve been up 10 or 15 points with 10 minutes to go and they’ve found a way to make it a game. You play the whole 80 otherwise you’re in trouble.”
Conditions were close to ideal as the pitch was a bit soft and damp but could have been worse, as in muddy or frozen. The humid Victoria air wasn’t as chilling to the bone as it has been for most Barnard Cups.
The Bays couldn’t find their game in the first 30 minutes, as the Vikes took a 10-0 lead on tries by national team scrum half Jamie MacKenzie and national sevens player Luke McCloskey. Fergus Hall was strong for the Vikes as the fullback kicked a try conversion and two penalty goals.
The Vikes started the second half with McCloskey’s second try to go up 20-10. But the Bays turned it on and mounted a comeback with tries by prop Cole Racine and No. 8 Nolan Miles from the scrum. The Bays finally overtook the lead with three minutes remaining, when fullback Lucien Nels finished a bullish Bays’ effort.
“I feel like we outplayed (James Bay) most of the game we just made some dumb mistakes and let them march down the field with easy penalty kicks,” Vikes’ MacKenzie said. “That was the difference. When it comes to point like that (20-10 lead) in the game we need to learn to close it out.”
As inexperienced as the Vikes might be compared to the Bays, the latter also put forth one of its youngest rosters, likely the youngest of the Bays’ six Barnard Cup winning rosters in the recent era.
The leadership of Dalziel and others helped make the difference with the youngest Bays team in at least a decade, said Bays coach Peter Rushton.
“It’s not like the days of old, men against boys. The Vikes are big, fit guys and we had a relatively inexperienced group out there. Spencer’s guidance and leadership out there is huge. He got injured in the second half and stayed in. He is such a gutsy player. That’s good for others to feed on. Hopefully they learn lessons from it and get a little bit better.”
The Bays and Vikes are tied at 4-2 in CDI Premier Rugby league and will resume play in the new year.
From the scrum: Jamie MacKenzie, a former pro scrum half for Esher of England’s Rugby Championship, started the Barnard Cup wearing No. 22 because the Vikes’ No. 9 didn’t fit him.