Ontario Jr. Blues: U16 and U18 Men EIRA Series Recap; Photo Credit to Petrus Engelbrecht
(GUELPH, ON) - The Under-16 and Under-18 Ontario Junior Blues provincial representative programs opened up their summer competition series against the Eagle Impact Rugby Academy (EIRA) from July 24th – 29th at the University of Guelph. This three-game competition structure featured some of North America's most promising young rugby players and tested elite level junior rugby talent by effectively showcasing teams, players and on-field ability.
Game 1: July 25
Score: (L) 30-26
Game one of the summer series competition took place on Tuesday July 25 at the University of Guelph against the EIRA Under-16 squad. Both teams took the field in what looked to have been an even matchup across the board. The EIRA got things going moments after the opening kickoff as they put the game's first points on the board – taking an early lead from the Blues. The Blues were quick to respond as fullback Spencer Baillie broke the line, offloading to supporting winger Cam Hunter as he went for a 40-metre run, stepping and fending through the EIRA defense before scoring one of his two tries on the day. The very next kickoff went right into the hands of Hunter, who took the ball on the wing, stepped inside, and took off down the sideline for an 80-metre score – his second try of the half. Blues scrum-half Sean Snyman hit the convert to give the Blues a 14-7 lead. Following the Blues go ahead score – Ontario’s defense was put to the test as a hungry EIRA squad was itching to score – piecing together several phases within the Blues red zone. As a resilient Blues defense stopped the Eagles from several phases deep inside their territory – the EIRA eventually penetrated through Ontario’s hard-nosed defense – scoring to tie the game at 14. The score was tied at 14 going into the second half.
The second half started off slow as both teams played very conservative and defensive rugby. The EIRA were first on the board, as the Ontario backline had an unlucky mix up while running a play. The Blues fumbled ball, allowing an Eagles player to pounce on it and take it back for the score. The conversion was good and the Eagles took a 21-14 lead. Immediately after the score, Hunter got sent off with a yellow card for making a high tackle. Playing a man down, the Blues ran into more penalty trouble, allowing the EIRA to slot a kick from 40 metres out, bringing their lead to 20-14. Shortly after the penalty kick, the EIRA punched another try through the Ontario defense, while deep in their territory, making it 27-14. Ontario would answer with one more converted try to make it a 27-21 game, but it wasn't enough. EIRA nailed another penalty kick to close the game, defeating the Blues by a fulltime score of 30-26.
Game 2: July 27
Score: (L) 24-21
The Americans took no time to get things started against the Blues in game two of the series, scoring within the first few phases to take a go ahead lead. After being scored on almost instantly, Ontario used the EIRA’s 7-0 lead as a wake-up call to get the ball rolling. Blues openside flanker, Nash Ramsey was the first Ontario player to get on the board as he finished off on an aggressive line break, placing the ball underneath the uprights to tie the game at 7 a piece. The Blues got into defensive penalty trouble within their own territory and EIRA took advantage of the opportunity. EIRA went for post and split the uprights for three points, as the Americans took the lead 10-7 going into halftime.
Much like the first half, the EIRA came out swinging and they added a converted try to their scoreline right away. The try made it a 17-7 game early in the second half. Ontario’s offense was on their back feet for the majority of the second half, as a pressing EIRA squad continued to bring quick line speed and fluid ball movement. After stealing a lineout from the Americans deep inside EIRA territory, Blues blindside flanker Cody Nhanala cleaned up the messy ball, taking it to the ground and in for the score to bring Ontario within three points. As the Blues red zone defense faced more penalty trouble late, the Americans capitalized, scoring on the overlap late in the game. The Blues offense stayed alive, though down late in the game. They marched down the field before being awarded a penalty try. As the Blues rallied back to become within arms reach – it was too late. EIRA snatched game two by a final score of 24-21.
Game 3: July 29
Score: (L) 24-19
The under-16 men took the field in their third and final game of competition against the Eagle Impact Rugby Academy on Saturday, as they looked to take a game from an undefeated (2-0) American squad. Within the opening two minutes, a knock on inside Blues territory led to an Eagles scrum, which resulted in an early go ahead try as EIRA took a 7-0 lead. After giving up an early lead, the Blues started to maintain ball possession inside the Eagles half, piecing together several phases, inching closer and closer to the try zone. As both teams traded offensive sequences, the EIRA were able to capitalize. After holding up an Eagles try, EIRA was awarded a scrum on the Blues 5-metre line, well inside the Ontario half. The Americans took advantage of being inside Blues territory and punched in their second try of the half to bring their lead to 14-0. Shortly after the EIRA conversion, the Blues were charged with an obstruction penalty, allowing the EIRA three points to their lead to make it a 17-0 game. The Blues finally got on the board late in the half as prop Matheson Duff powered his way through the EIRA defense to put Ontario on the board. EIRA led 17-7 after 30 minutes of play.
Ontario opened up the second half with fluid ball movement and fast line speed as they marched their way into EIRA territory early on. It was Blues flanker Ramsey who opened up second half scoring as he took a pick and go in for the score to put Ontario within a try - 17-12. Following the Blues try, EIRA took almost no time to respond, swinging the ball out wide and scoring on the overlap to give the Eagles a 24-12 lead. With time winding down, Ontario’s offense got the ball through the hands of the backline and into the hands of winger Ben Mandigo, as he finished off on a beautiful team try. Down by three points, Ontario battled hard, fighting until to the final whistle. It wasn’t enough to overtake the Eagle Impact Rugby Academy though. The Americans went on to take the series after a 3-0 record in Guelph. In three games of competition, the EIRA totaled 78 points, while Ontario totaled 66 points.
Game 1: July 25
Score: (W) 32-27
Game one of the Under-18 summer series competition took place on Tuesday July 25 at the University of Guelph against the EIRA Under-18 squad. The Blues came out hot in this contest, as they opened up the scoring with a converted try and a penalty kick within the opening 10 minutes. Ontario’s 10-0 lead was short lived as a hungry EIRA squad came back with a try and penalty kick of their own to tie the game at 10 a piece. In a back and forth first half, the Blues continued to trade scores with the EIRA before ending the half with a late go ahead try. The Blues held a 20-17 edge after 30 minutes.
Much like the first half, both teams were quick to get onto the scoreboard in the second half. The teams traded scores early on, but Ontario held a 25-22 lead. As defense began to factor in for Ontario, they held their own as the EIRA maintained possession in the Blues red zone for several phases. The Americans were able to penetrate through the Blues defensive line, scoring to take a late lead. Down 27-25 with minutes left on the clock, Ontario was not ready to hand this game over to the rival American squad. With time winding down, the Blues backline got the ball moving and into the hands of outside centre Robert Eliadis, who took the ball at pace, burning through the EIRA defense. Ontario split the uprights and ended the game with a 32-27 win. Game one was a very close, intense and skillful game of rugby to say the least!
Game 2: July 27th
Score: (L) 24-19
After a tight first game of competition against the Under-18 EIRA, the Blues were eager to continue their winning ways. Moments after the opening kickoff of game two, Blues centre Quenton Mclean-Lavado took a beautiful ball from halfback Will Cheesewright. Lavado finished off a hard run to open up the scoring for Ontario. The Americans responded after an offensive scrum to make it a two-point game early in the first half. Riding off of momentum, EIRA scored twice and converted on a penalty kick within 10 minutes. The American side took a 17-7 lead into halftime.
The Blues defense was put to the test early on in the second half. EIRA maintained possession of the ball within the Blues half for several phases. After prop Fillip Pagasic left the game with an ankle injury, the EIRA squad punched another one through the Blues defense, taking a 24-7 lead. As momentum seemed to be on the American side, the Blues rallied together and starting piecing together some quality phases of rugby. After trading clearance kicks back and forth, Blues scrum-half Josh Ho received a high ball in space - took it to ground, and went on a run. He stepped his way through the Americans before feeding a streaking Timico Smith, who used his speed to finish on his first try of the competition. Splitting the uprights on the conversion was Ontario fullback Mikkel Borgrren. Blues trailed 24-14. As time became a factor for the Blues, Eliadis entered the game and on his second touch of the game, ran a beautiful support line off of a shifty Smith. Smith offloaded to Eliadis, who went 60 meters down the wing for the try. The Blues conversion attempt was no good. With only a three-point differential, the Americans were up by a score of 24-19 late in the game. EIRA took game two of the series by a fulltime score of 24-19.
Game 3: July 29th
Score: (L) 29-15
The Under-18 Ontario Junior Blues took the field on Saturday looking to come out on top of the three game competition series against a hungry Eagle Impact Rugby Academy squad. As each team went into the contest with a 1-1 record, this game would be the deciding factor in dictating a series winner.
Ontario started the game with a turnover inside their own half, handing over possession of the ball to the Eagles early on. With ball in hand, EIRA marched their way down the field, gaining significant ground on the Blues. Following an EIRA scrum on the Blues 5-metre line, the Americans played fast, explosive rugby to score the game's first points - 7-0 EIRA. EIRA maintained sequential possessions until Blues tight head prop Guerschom Mukendi made consecutive positive tackles while Blues lock Ethan Cooney poached the ball, giving Ontario midfield possession. Ontario took advantage of this possession. Hooker David Stoltz ran a hard crash line through the EIRA defense before opening up space and offloading to a supporting Borggren. He ran it back for the score. Riding off of the momentum from Borggren’s try, Ontario kept their foot on the gas. Ontario maintained possession for several phases and they swung the ball out wide until it reached Eliadis. He took the ball at the Ontario 22-metre line, stepped the opposite outside centre, fended two EIRA forwards and burned the EIRA back three to score an 80-metre try. The Blues went into half time with a 10-7 lead after 30 minutes.
EIRA got the ball moving early in the second half, spinning the ball through the backline and taking advantage of the overlap to score an untouched try. Up 12-10, the EIRA were given favorable field position, as a weary Blues defense gave up another penalty, allowing EIRA to increase their lead to 15-10. Down by a try, the Blues were in no position to hand this contest over to the Americans. Ontario loose head prop Owen McLean-Lavado ran a hard support line deep inside the Eagles half, fending his way in for the score. After a missed Blues conversion, the score was all tied up at 15 a piece late in the half. Following the McLean-Lavado try, the Americans added two late scores, putting this one out of reach. The Eagle Impact Rugby Academy took the best of three series with a 2-1 record against the Under-18 Ontario Junior Blues. This competition series was a great test for both teams as the total points scored closely favored the Americans by 80-66.
ABOUT THE ONTARIO BLUES
The Ontario Blues program is the high performance representative program for male and female rugby players in Ontario. Rugby Ontario is represented at the provincial level by the Ontario Blues High Performance program. The program includes representative teams from Under-15 to Senior in both Women’s and Men’s Fifteens. Specifically, the program is designed to develop and showcase rugby players for Canadian representative national teams.
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Rugby Ontario is the provincial sports governing body responsible for the organization of rugby in Ontario. Our mission is to establish a stronger identity for rugby in Ontario by promoting the sport’s core values and by fostering a culture of inclusiveness and excellence on and off the field of play.
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