The Bayside Sharks got the premier men’s rugby season off to a flying start Saturday, with a 39-5 road victory over the Cowichan Piggies.
And though the team will gladly take the win and run with it, Bayside head coach Dave Benoit said his side was far from perfect in the rainy conditions on Vancouver Island.
“Essentially, it was like a first exhibition game for us,” he said.
“At times, we played good multi-phase rugby and made some good plays, but because of the conditions – the field was fine but the weather was bad – it was sloppy, and we had trouble holding onto the ball.
“Once we tightened things up a bit though, we were able to build some good pressure and open the score up a little more.”
Peter Clifford, Bayside’s new 21-year-old No. 10, led the offence with a try, two penalty kicks and four converts, with Zach Thorpe, Brodie Henderson, Isimeli Sigarua and Trevor Giesbrecht also notching tries for the visiting Sharks.
Benoit was particularly impressed with the play of Henderson and fellow veteran Pat Bickterton, both of whom shared man-of-the-match honours.
“They were like men against boys out there, at times,” Benoit said. “Cowichan’s a good, young side, but they were overmatched physically. (Bickerton and Henderson) just dominated out there.”
The turning point in the game, Benoit said, came at the 35-minute mark of the first half, with the Sharks up 13-0. Cowichan had possession of the ball on the Bayside goal line and were threatening to punch the ball in for a try.
The Sharks were able to hold them off, and with momentum shifted, pulled away after that.
“It was a big defensive stand, and after that, we just really picked things up,” the coach said.
The Sharks will face a much tougher foe this weekend, when Capilano comes to South Surrey Saturday.
“I hear they’re a little younger, tough and more athletic this year, so they’ll be a tough test, for sure,” Benoit said.
“We can take some stuff from the (Cowichan) game, but really, our first real game of the year is this weekend, and if we don’t tidy things up, we won’t get the same result.”
Benoit said lineouts and discipline were two areas still in need of work.
“Our scrums were good, but our lineouts could still use a lot of work,” he said. “And we took too many penalties. Whether they’re deserved or not, you need to adjust to the game and to the referee, and we didn’t do that.”
Saturday’s slate of games – all between Bayside and Capilano – begins at 11 a.m. with a third-division contest. First division teams hit the field at 1 p.m., and the premiers battle at 2:45 p.m.
Bayside’s first division team also defeated Cowichan Saturday, 29-19.
Dan Dixon led the Sharks with two tries and two converts, while Erik Goheen, Jesse Train and Mike Pinfield also tallied tries for the victors.
Train and Richard Shimooka were named men-of-the-match, as selected by their opponents.