Thunderbirds triumph against Vikes under rainy skies

VANCOUVER, BC – Torrid conditions could not halt the Thunderbirds men’s rugby team as they took a 22-7 victory over the University of Victoria Vikes. With a multitude of postponements in the Coastal Cup calendar, a packed Gerald McGavin Rugby Pavilion was once again present to witness the first Wightman Boot action this year. 

The rain held off just for a moment as the game got underway, but both teams seemed to struggle with the dampness. It was unusual to see the dropped passes and fumbles from the sides, but the T-Birds and Vikes endured through. 

UBC seized the initiative early, pushing UVic back with a constant bombardment of pressure. It earned the blue-and-gold an early penalty kick in the 5th minute, which the normally mercurial Takoda McMullin sliced just wide. 

The Vikes were trying to find their response. Nothing came easy for the islanders, who launched clearance kick after clearance kick to try and weather the storm. A yellow card in the 10th minute proved costly for UVic. Down to 14 men, it didn’t take long for an opening to emerge. A kick forward was scooped up by Landon Clironomos, finding a gap in the Vikes line. Sprinting past and dodging a tackle, the Thunderbird dived into the try area to score the first points of the match. 

UVic would search for their answer fruitlessly until the whistle blew for halftime. The frame was marked by the many contested scrums, the conditions adding a new element to the match. However, the one constant was the Thunderbird’s refusal to let themselves get pushed back too far. 

The second half would start fast and furious. Right off the Vikes kick, a sea of T-Birds flooded forth. Nothing the islanders did could hold the barrage that flooded them in the first few moments, proving to be disastrous. A scintillating McMullin run sliced from right to left, finding Clironomos who was brought down inches from the zone. It took just another attempt, as Jacob Bossi barreled through the reeling UVic defenders to score the second try of the game. 

Perhaps wanting to respond in kind, UVic found themselves with the upper hand as they managed to get some chances for themselves. In the 45th minute, Zarija Djurickovic would push in and score the first points for the Vikes, with Chris Gamage converting the extra two points. All of a sudden, the gap narrowed to 10-7. 

The match would stagnate for a while, the teams jousting for field position. In the 63rd minute, off of a wonderful fake and offload, Jack Carson would surge through the Vikes line and dash home for a try. Returning from the Canadian National Men’s Rugby Sevens team, Carson would feature strongly as a substitute to give the T-Birds comfort. McMullin’s conversion flew between the posts to extend the gap to 17-7. 

Not to be outdone, Bossi would feature again on the scoresheet just five minutes later, punching home UBC’s 4th try of the day. Tallying two for himself, the third-year Victoria native proved to be too much to handle. 

The whistle would go for the end of the game as UBC and UVic battled to the death. A 22-7 victory pushes the Thunderbirds to 2-1 in the Coastal Cup, while dropping the Vikes record to 0-3. 

Head coach Curry Hitchborn quickly found things to improve on even in a victory. “We just need to be more patient and sticking with what works,” he said. “We don’t have a choice but to get better and better every game.” 

For a team with national championship hopes, the mentality that Hitchborn tries to instill is one of constant vigilance. “It’s easy to keep a knife sharp than it is to put a brand new edge on the dull blade,” he said. “Everybody wants to beat us every game, for every team we play against it’s their biggest game of the year.”

His changes in this game reflect that. A mass shuffling of the backs from their loss to Wave resulted in only one try conceded against UVic. Hitchborn had a simple message for their next game. 

“Don’t let the [Pacific] Pride touch the ball.” 

Jacob Bossi was understandably happy with the performance his team showed. “I think that there was a lot of unforced errors of course due to the weather but at the end of the day some really good rugby was played,” he said. “We definitely got a lot of success and when we were doing the things that we focused on and it looked really good.” 

Coming off a loss to Wave, the team was able to regroup fast. “It’s really hard to get a loss like that, especially with a new team, but really we took that in stride and figured out we had some things to work on getting back into this game, and really capitalized on what we needed to improve,” Bossi said. 

And like his coach, Bossi knew how tough Pacific Pride are going to be. Already, his focus shifted to what awaited in Port Alberni. “It’s back to the drawing board, figure out what we need to improve, and then back to a really hard game against a really strong team in Pride so we’ll be ready.”

It will be the first away match in a long while for the Thunderbirds, as they head over to the island to face off against the Pacific Pride in Port Alberni. The Pride are also known as the Rugby Canada National Development Academy. Kickoff is set for 1 PM on October 23rd.

Cover Photo: UBC Thunderbirds

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