Blues and Bears into ARC semi finals

(IRB.COM) Sunday 27 September 2009
 Blues and Bears into ARC semi finals
The Bears and Blues will meet again in the final - Photo: José Lagman

The Ontario Blues found the winning touch when it mattered most, picking up their first victory of the Americas Rugby Championship - 32-5 over The Rock - to qualify for the semi finals next month.

The manner of the victory also gave the Blues the vital bonus point, which lifted them off the bottom of the standings going into the final day of pool action and into second place by one point from The Rock.

The Blues can now look forward to a re-match with the British Columbia Bears, who beat them 29-24 a fortnight ago, in the semi finals on 10 October with USA Selects and Argentina Jaguars meeting in the other.

Mike Scholz gave the Blues a dream start when he scored under the posts in the opening minute at Fletcher's Fields in Markham and by half time they had established an unexpected 25-0 lead with Derek Daypuck and Mark MacSween also crossing for tries.

Relentless tactical kicking from Steve Piatek and Daypuck kept the Blues in the area of the pitch they wanted to play and with The Rock attempting to counter-attack with their back three, the pressure told on several occasions as they forced the visitors into errors.

The Rock kept trying to run everything as the match progressed and although they did get on the scoreboard through prop Frank Walsh, an intercept try by Piatek wrapped up the bonus point victory.

"Our goal was to pressure them from the get-go," said Ontario coach Les Gilson. "It helped that we were able to make such a quick start. Much still to work on, but obviously a vastly improved effort from our guys."

Bears go on the rampage

The Blues will need to step up another level if they are to hand BC Bears their first ARC defeat after they made it three wins from three with an emphatic 52-14 defeat of the Prairie Wolf Pack to top the table and secure home advantage for the semi finals.

Both sides started slowly at the Brockton Oval, but when Mike Burak touched down for the Bears the floodgates began to open with scrum half Ed Fairhurst combining with Sean Duke for the wing to cross for two quick-fire tries.

With fly half Nathan Hirayama in sublime form with the boot - converting all seven of his side's tries, including his own score - the Bears went in 28-7 ahead after Adam van Staveren secured the try-bonus point.

The Wolf Pack's try came on the back of a Blues lapse of concentration, which resulted in a turnover and allowed lively fly half Steve Woodward to get his side on the scoreboard.

Glen McKinnon, Dave Spicer and Hirayama crossed after the break as the Bears became the first side to surpass the 50-point barrier in the inaugural Americas Rugby Championship, which to date has only seen the four Canadian provinces involved in action.

"I was impressed with the entirety of the group and how they (the Bears) are able to attack from everywhere. It made them almost impossible to defend against," admitted Wolf Pack backs coach Shane Thompson.

Bears head coach Mike James added: "We honestly should have put those numbers up in the first game against Ontario. The only danger is that now after one good result, complacency will creep in. There's still a lot of work to do in two weeks, and we are far from a finished product, but today's result was promising."

Match schedule

7 September - Atlantic (The Rock) 31-23 Prairies (Wolf Pack)
12 September - Ontario (Blues) 24-29 BC (Bears)
19 September - BC (Bears) 8-7 Atlantic (The Rock)
19 September - Prairies (Wolf Pack) 14-13 Ontario (Blues)
26 September - Prairies (Wolf Pack) 14-52 BC (Bears)
26 September - Atlantic (The Rock) 5-32 Ontario (Blues)

Semi finals
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

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