Canadian international Nathan Hirayama scored 14 points as British Columbia Bears got their Americas Rugby Championship campaign off to a winning start with a 29-24 win over Ontario Blues at the Brockton Oval in Vancouver on Saturday.
The win takes BC Bears joint top of the standings of the round robin featuring four Canadian provinces, the top two of whom will meet in the semi finals on 10 October with the winner to face the side who emerges triumphant from the USA Selects v Argentina Jaguars battle.
The Bears stuck to a game plan of smartly kicking for territory, although Canada captain Pat Riordan's efforts around the breakdown earned the ugly yards and led to the first of their four tries when wing Sean Duke touched down with Hirayama adding the conversion.
A Steve Piatek penalty got the Blues on the scoreboard before a crowd of around 2,000, but with The Bears' centre pairing of Sam Jenkins and Canada Under 20 captain Harry Jones working well it was the latter's up and under which brought a try for Brian Erichsen.
Somewhat against the run of play, the Blues ensured the deficit would only be four points at half time, recovering a loose ball off the side of a ruck deep in their own half before a series of offloads took them 80 metres up field and resulted in a try for Scott Dunham.
Easying off the pedal
In the second half, Hirayama was the catalyst of a 40-metre gain for the Bears, the fly half holding his man and offloading at the last minute to Jenkins. The next phase saw Sean White neatly use the space out wide, stepping two Blues players for an easy try.
Hirayama then scored a try of his own after a remarkable one-handed pick up by full back White. The Bears had earned a try bonus point to take them joint top with The Rock, who had beaten the Prairie Wolf Pack 31-23 in the all-new Championship's first match.
This secured, they took their foot off the pedal and allowed the Blues to slash the Bears' advantage, scoring 14 unanswered points from Colin Brown and Steve Shortly tries to ultimately secure a losing bonus point.
"It was a constructive game, high quality, but BC took advantage of our mistakes," admitted Blues manager Mark Winokur. "We're pretty happy to walk away with the bonus point. The match today has left us with a few things to work on this week before our game against the Wolf Pack in Toronto."
Bears prop Rhodri Hanmer added: "Our structure needs to improve, and our defence and penalty count can tighten up, but we got the win and the bonus point so we've put ourselves in a good starting position to reach our goal of winning the ARC competition."
The Americas Rugby Championship continues on 19 September when the BC Bears travel to Newfoundland for a top of the table clash with The Rock, while the Wolf Pack tackle the Blues.
7 September - Atlantic (The Rock) 31-23 Prairies (Wolf Pack)
12 September - Ontario (Blues) 24-29 BC (Bears)
19 September - BC (Bears) v Atlantic (The Rock)
19 September - Prairies (Wolf Pack) v Ontario (Blues)
26 September - Prairies (Wolf Pack) v BC (Bears)
26 September - Atlantic (The Rock) v Ontario (Blues)
10 October - Canada 2 v Canada 1
10 October - Argentina Jaguars v USA Selects
17 October - Loser SF1 v Loser SF2
17 October - Winner SF1 v Winner SF2
For more information visit www.americasrugbychampionship.com.
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