The B.C. Bears put on a completely dominant performance on home soil with a 54-12 win over the Prairie Wolf Pack in Kelowna on Saturday evening, erasing a 32-point deficit and winning the Best of the West series 60-50 on aggregate.
The match took place during the rest day of the U16 Western Canadian Championships, and players from all the teams relished the opportunity to take in top-level provincial rugby.
In Red Deer, the Bears played well in the first half before being overrun in the second, and just as scripted, the Bears came out flying in Kelowna to completely dominate the second half of play.
Not three minutes after the restart, Jorden Sandover-Best weaved through three Prairie players to score a gorgeous try, and just a few minutes later, a lineout resulted in a fantastic run from Colby Mason, who offloaded to Staller for his second try of the match.
The ensuing conversion gave the Bears a 35-12 lead on the night and reduced their aggregate deficit to just nine points. A lapse in concentration 10 minutes later gave the Bears a gap to run into and they further increased their lead.
With the momentum clearly in the host’s favour, the Bears sensed an opportunity to score again and take the lead on aggregate.
B.C. pressured their opponents relentlessly, pinning them deep in their own half of the pitch for long stretches of play. In the 62nd minute, Giuseppe Du Toit managed to dive for the near side corner flag and stretch B.C.’s lead in the match to 33, and Staller converted to make it 35 and give the Bears a three-point lead on aggregate in the series. The Bears got a bit of insurance in the 68th as a missed Wolf Pack tackle left a huge gap for Blake Mahovic to run into and score.
“Up in Red Deer, we felt we didn’t work as hard as we could have, and that was the message this weekend, was to leave everything on the pitch,” head coach James Thompson said. “Some guys played 40, some guys played 50, some guys played 80. We had 23 players that all wanted to work hard for each other. Regardless of what’s in front of you, to be able to pull out a result like that shows a never-say-never attitude.”
Bears captain Michael O’Toole appreciated the packed house in the Apple Bowl.
“To be able to play a match like that in front of guys and girls that will hopefully be here one day – you couldn’t have written that script if you tried,” he said.