The Lindsay Thurber Raiders were good but far from perfect during Wednesday’s 57-22 thumping of the Notre Dame Cougars in the CASAA senior boys rugby final at Titans Park.
Now, as they prepare to compete in the provincial high school championship tournament Friday and Saturday at Lethbridge, head coach Dean Plant wants his team to remember and then make a commitment to avoid the mistakes made versus the Cougars.
The Raiders let up for a 15-minute stretch Wednesday, during which time the Notre Dame squad scored all of its points.
“I wasn’t happy with that,” said Plant. “We talked about ball possession, about maintaining ball possession . . . and again, when we make simple mistakes quality teams like these guys make us pay and that’s exactly what they did today. Kudos to them (Cougars), they made us really work on the tackles.
“That’s what we really need to focus on because at provincials the teams you play are all zone champions. They’re going to be quality teams and we cannot make the mistakes that we made today.”
Last year, the Raiders started slow in their first game of the provincial championship and trailed 15-0 at halftime before falling 15-10.
The loss dropped the Lindsay Thurber side into the consolation side and prevented the team from competing for a medal.
“I think we need to realize that we can’t come out like that this year,” said Plant, whose fourth-ranked team takes on the Edmonton Public champion, ranked fifth, in the first game Friday at 11:30 a.m.
Wednesday’s game marked the 11th time in Plant’s 12 years as coach that Lindsay Thurber has captured the Central Alberta title. The Raiders, whose stretch of dominance was interrupted by a two-point loss to Hunting Hills in 2011, were undefeated this season.
“It’s been a good season,” said Plant. “We have a lot of Grades 12s this year, that’s why we’ve been pretty dominant. The younger kids have stepped up too.”
Leading the way for the Raiders in the title game was man of the match Spencer Yeats, who scored three tries and booted seven conversions. Todd Tulman and Erik Hoehne each contributed two tries and Nathan Thomas, Nav Sidhu and Owen Smith scored one apiece.
Brody MacLeod, Daniel Stryker and Jayden Kristian each had a try for the Cougars, whose man of the match was Nick Galenzoski. Luis Moreno kicked two converts in a losing cause.
The game featured some excellent breakout runs and strong tackling, signs that the high school game is growing stronger in Central Alberta.
“Over the last five to 10 years the talent level has definitely increased,” said Cougars coach Jon Mauro. “More and more kids from around here are playing representative rugby at the provincial level and it’s feeding back into our high schools.”
Mauro’s team also improved over the second half of the season.
“The players have come a long way from where they were at the beginning of the year,” he said. “We played these guys (Raiders) early in the season and got skunked, but we got better over the second half.”
The Lindsay Thurber Raiders girls will also compete in the provincials at Lethbridge after slipping past Notre Dame 14-12 Monday morning.