The two-time defending champion Cowichan 49ers kicked off their bid for a third straight Tony Grover Cup last Friday with a 5-0 win over Bays United FC at Oak Bay High School.
Because of recent weather issues, it was the 49ers’ first time on the pitch in a while. They also travelled with just 13 players and without a regular goalkeeper, as out-player Chad Bastion filled in once again, playing well when he was tested.
“It was a good win, to say the least,” Cowichan coach Kevin James said. “It was a good match to get our touch back after being off so long.”
The game got off to a frustrating start for Cowichan’s masters A team.
“We started fighting the ball a little bit,” James related. “We had opportunities, but we couldn’t seem to find the back of the net or pull the trigger when we needed to.”
The team was up 1-0 at halftime, and James convinced the players to stick to their original game plan.
“There was a little bit of frustration because of the opportunities we had,” he admitted. “But the scoreline didn’t particularly reflect how the game was going. I told the guys at the half not to get down on each other, to keep going through the motions and it will happen.”
The 49ers moved the ball around in the second half and kept the game simple, with a good build-up from the back end out.
Richard Lord opened the scoring late in the first half. Neall Rowlings, Darcy Penner, Jai Irvine and Brad Thorne had the second-half goals.
Cowichan will face an always-difficult Cordova Bay Bobcats team in the next round at the Sherman Road turf on March 10.
“When you look at the draw — you have to beat everybody to win the cup — but we’ve got our work cut out for us,” James said. “The Bobcats have given us trouble. They’ve given UVic and Gorge trouble. They’re right there. It’s gonna be another one where we’ll have to roll up our sleeves and get it done. Thankfully, it’s at home, so hopefully we’ll get some fans out to give us a boost.”
The 49ers have two league games left as well, including a road game at Vic West this Saturday night and a home game against Saanich Fusion when it can be scheduled. Cowichan and UVic Alumni are tied atop pool A with matching records of 14 wins and one loss, but the 49ers hold the tiebreaker by one goal.
The masters B Cowichan Steelheads played their first Tony Grover Cup game on Sunday and were eliminated in a 2-1 loss to Castaways Juniors.