ST.JOHN’S, Nfld. – It was a case of too little, too late for the Niagara Thunder.
Trailing 36-0 in the second half, the visiting Thunder put 19 unanswered points on the board but ran out of time in losing 36-19 to the Newfoundland Rock in a Rugby Canada Super League game on Saturday. The loss dropped the Thunder into second place, four points back of the Rock. It was Niagara’s first setback after five games, while the Rock remained undefeated.
Each team has one game remaining and the Thunder’s chances now of reclaiming the top rung in the league’s Eastern Conference rest with, to a large extent, with the 2-2 Toronto Xtreme. Toronto, which defeated the Quebec Caribou in Montreal Saturday, will travel to St.John’s next week to meet the Rock. If the Xtreme score an upset and Niagara win its remaining game on July 22 in Montreal, the Thunder could be division leaders.
The Thunder went into Saturday’s game without center Steve Piatek, who was hospitalized with a suspected appendicitis the day the team left for Newfoundland. Piatek had scored 27 points, a hat-trick of tries and six conversions in the team’s defeat of the Keltics last week.
Niagara missed two opportunities to take an early lead from two penalty attempts near the posts. Those misses were all that The Rock needed and when the first half ended the hosts were up 17-0.
Tries from Mike Simpson and Robert Wilson, converted by Dean Blanks who also added a penalty, gave The Rock their lead. Wilson had three tries on the day and Blanks had four converts
While the visitors dominated the final 15 minutes and scored their 19 points, their three tries and one conversion were not enough to get the bonus point for four tries, nor the bonus point for keeping within seven points of their victors.Scoring tries for the Thunder were Dan Pletch, Andrew Thomson, and Jon Goldie while Spencer Fullerton had two converts.
On the encouraging side, the Lightning, the Thunder’s U21 development side, won its game against the Rock’s U21 side.
In the Super League’s Western Conference, Saskatchewan’s Prairie Fire, which lost to The Rock in the national final last year, defeated the Crimson Tide 39-20 and remained undefeated. If the Super League’s scenario plays itself out as expected, the two teams will again meet to decide the national championship.