In a physically exhausting sport like competitive rugby, roster depth is of the utmost importance.
The Red Deer Titans Second and Third Division squads were short of secondary manpower while experiencing mixed results at Titans Park Saturday, with the No. 2 squad jumping out to a big lead before hanging on for a 37-36 win over the Foothills Lions and the Third Division crew falling 58-10 to Banff in the final regular-season match for both local teams.
“It was a little tight. We came out flying in the first half but our (lack of) numbers kind of showed in the second half,” said Titans Second Division co-coach Mike Berry. “We went flat a bit but held on for the win, which was nice.”
With the positive result, the Titans improved to 7-5-1 and moved into second place in the Calgary Rugby Union and earned a first-round playoff bye.
“We have a couple of rookies this year and other guys who have been here 15 years. We’re gelling as a big family which is nice to see,” said Berry, who moved to Red Deer from Ontario three years ago and was a Titans player until this season.
“We pulled out a win today and it’s nice to be going into playoffs in second place. This is a good league. Every team has beaten every team.”
Berry is confident his squad can move along with authority once post-season play starts.
“Our scrum has been dominant all year,” said the coach.
“We have some younger guys on the outside who are pretty quick in all defensive schemes. We’re one of the better teams in the league and have beaten every team so far, so things are looking good.”
Berry and Grady Bowd share coaching duties with both the Second and Third Division Titans.
The Titans III dropped to 7-5-0 with Saturday’s result and will play their first post-season game this weekend.
“We didn’t have any subs today, we were a little short,” said Bowd.
“We don’t like our seconds playing thirds if they have to play a full 80 minutes. When you have guys playing two games in one day, that’s a full 160 minutes which is quite a bit.
“We had some guys who couldn’t commit today and others who have gone back to school. That kind of set us back a bit.”
The Titans broke in a handful of players this year and also have a solid veteran presence.
“It’s a bit of both. We have five or six new guys this year . . . guys who are coming onto the scene for the first time, which is good,” said Bowd. “We had three to four players return to the team following the high school season and a few vets back from last year, guys with good leadership abilities.
“We started off a bit tough this season but once we started to work together and get some team chemistry we got stronger. We’ve declined a bit lately due to the commitment level of our players.”
Bowd, a Red Deer native who as a player competed in Australia three years ago and also played club rugby and for the Canadian Under-20 team while stationed in Vancouver and Victoria, is looking forward to moving on to the Calgary Rugby Union playoffs.
“We didn’t fare well today against a very good team and we’ll be playing for our lives next weekend,” he said.
Jent Hoekstra scored the Titans’ lone try Saturday, with Jock Bottfield adding a pair of penalty kicks.