ROTHESAY, N.B. – The Three Oaks Axemen senior AAA rugby team started off the 2014 season with a huge statement last weekend.
The Axemen went undefeated in capturing Rothesay Netherwood School’s RugbyFest 2014. This marked the second time the Axemen have won the RugbyFest tournament, which celebrated its 25 anniversary this season. Three Oaks won the 20th annual tournament in 2009.
“It was a great way to kick off the season,” said Axemen co-captain Ty Wright. “The tournament is always a great time, and winning the finals just topped it off.”
After posting round-robin wins of 31-0 over Colonel Gray, 15-7 versus King’s Edgehill and 22-0 against Kennebecasis Valley, the Axemen defeated St. Peter High School from Ottawa, Ont., 10-5 in the championship game.
The championship game featured a rematch of last year’s RugbyFest semifinal game, which was won by St. Peter 29-0.
“The boys played with heart, and that’s what it came down to,” added Axemen co-captain Alex Rose, who was named the man of the match for the championship game. “It was nice to beat them after last year.”
Rose was selected for that award based on his play throughout the entire tournament, and not just the final.
Axemen head coach James Voye was pleased with how the Axemen started the final.
“We were dictating the play and being very physical and aggressive, which set the tone for us,” assessed Voye. “We had strong tackling on the fringes of rucks by the forwards and backs all game, and the back line showed that they could handle and tackle St. Peter’s big centres.”
After both teams traded possession back and forth in the first five to 10 minutes of the game, Three Oaks was able to run consecutive phases that led to a Wright try on a nice back play with inside centre Logan Millar.
“That play gave Ty the room he needed to throw a fake pass, fooling defenders, giving himself the space he needed to break away for a 40-metre try, which instantly fired up the team,” said Voye.
St. Peter used its forward size and strength to march down the field to tie the game 5-5 before halftime. Both teams came out very determined in the second half.
“It was a very physical battle, with both teams matching each others intensity in tackling and rucking all over the pitch,” said Voye.
Each team enjoyed pressure on the opposition’s try line, but neither squad was unable to score.
The turning point came with two minutes remaining. St. Peter took a hands in the ruck penalty on its own 10-metre line, which led to a quick penalty tap and go by Wright, who was able to spot Logan Plant sprinting to his right side.
Wright made a nice pass to Plant on the wing and he punched in the winning try.
“The team showed tremendous focus, character and heart all weekend,” assessed Voye. “Words can’t express how proud of a coach I am.”
Following is a look at the Axemen’s round-robin games:
Three Oaks 31 Colonel Gray 0
Rose, Wright, Plant, Aidan Smith and Dan Fingler scored trys for the Axemen. Rose also chipped in with three converts.
Three Oaks 15 King’s Edgehill 7
Brittan Turner scored a try the first time he touched the ball in his first-ever rugby game to stake the Axemen to a 5-0 lead 10 minutes into the match.
King’s Edgehill answered back to take a 7-5 lead into halftime, but the Axemen answered back in the second half. Rose used a straight arm to give himself the space he needed to get into the end zone to make it a 10-7 game.
Then towards the end of the second half, Fingler’s 30-metre run and great pass set up Rose’s insurance try.
Three Oaks 22 Kennebecasis Valley 0
Fingler, Smith, Rose and Wright scored trys for the Axemen. Rose added a convert.