The Langley Rugby Club kicked off its 44th season Saturday under sunny skies at Crush Crescent. This season began the way last season ended, with a pair of tough matches against Richmond.
The second division game was the epitome of early-season rugby, with both sides committing numerous handling errors. Neither team had much of an edge in possession or territory, but Richmond was able to take advantage of a Langley miscue on the stroke of halftime and scored in the corner to go in to the break up 5-0.
The second half showed more early season jitters and rust from both sides. Proceedings became more settled, and Langley began to enjoy long stretches of possession in the first part of the second half. Langley’s men of the match #8 Trevor Steamo and scrum half Ryan Yeomans both showed some creativity and strength in breaking the Richmond line for some significant gains in territory. The Langley forwards supported well and fly half Stan Garcia eventually punched over a score to tie the game at 5 apiece.
Richmond turned up the heat, with their #10 making several useful kicks to pin Langley deep within their own 22 meter line. Richmond turned the ball over, and despite lock Brian Anderson making several consecutive tackles in a strong defensive effort, Richmond scored their second try of the game, which was converted for a 12-5 lead.
Langley responded well, marching the length of the field from a missed Richmond penalty kick at goal. With Richmond on their heels, Yeomans chipped over the Richmond fullback, gathered the ball and touched down for Langley’s second try. The conversion was missed, and Richmond remained in the lead 12-10.
That was as close as Langley would get, as lapses in their defensive structure began to show. Richmond scored two more unconverted tries before the final whistle, for a final of 22-10.
Coach Rob Hayes was optimistic in the loss, however, saying, “When we were doing the basics well, we kept possession and moved forward consistently. Fitness was definitely an issue for us, though. We also have a bunch of new faces, which is awesome, but it takes time to come together as a team. As the season progresses, our fitness will improve and we’ll learn to play with one another, and I expect great things from our second division team.”
The first division match was up next, and started much the same as the second division game did, with early season errors evident. Langley fly half Stu Morrison kicked effectively early on, giving Langley good field position. The Langley forward pack looked comfortable with the new engagement rules from the start, imposing their will on Richmond at scrum time.
A high tackle from Richmond’s inside center allowed Langley fullback Sean Messenger to put the home team up 3-0 with the subsequent penalty kick. Continued kicking pressure from Morrison and Messenger kept the ball in Richmond territory for much of the first half. However, a penalty against Langley and the subsequent gain in field position for Richmond resulted in the game’s first try from the Richmond lineout. The score went unconverted to put the visitors up 5-3.
Play opened up a bit more, with some excellent speed shown by back of the match Sterling Balzer on the wing. However, Richmond took advantage of an overlap out wide to touch down their second try of the match. After the restart, excellent work by Langley loose forwards Kolby Brezden and forward of the match Richard Pearce resulted in a turnover and penalty which Messenger made good on for a halftime score of 10-6 for Richmond.
Discipline became an issue in the second half, with Langley prop Dustin Dickson shown a yellow card, and Richmond’s #8 following him to the sin bin shortly after. Richmond took advantage of the extra space on the field and counterattacked a poorly-judged Langley kick to score a converted try: 17-6 for Richmond.
Messenger and the Richmond scrum half traded penalties to take the score to 20-9. At the 60 minute mark the referee decided the Richmond inside center had high-tackled one too many Langley players on the day and booked him an appointment with league’s disciplinary committee with a red card a 15 minutes shy of full time. Langley took advantage of the extra man, with Pearce making a huge gain before Dickson made amends for his earlier yellow card, wrestling his way over the goal line for the try.
The comeback wasn’t to be, however, as an unfortunate break allowed Richmond one more score before full time. Said Coach Hayes about the 25-14 loss, “It was a winnable game. We have a lot of talent, but we need to simplify our tactics and we’ll see success.”
Langley has a bye week before visiting Abbotsford RFC at Exhibition Park. The LRC is always welcoming new players of all ages. Any athletes interested in joining the club should go to www.langleyrugby.com for information.