Niagara Thunder end Rugby Super League season on positive note

MONTREAL – The Niagara Thunder capped a successful Rugby Canada Super League season with a 19-6 win against the Quebec Caribou.

The Thunder, a collection of elite players from the Ontario Rugby Union’s Marshall and Keenan and Niagara Rugby Unions Premier divisions, ended regular season play with a record of five wins against one defeat. That loss was to the Newfoundland Rock, who by virtue of their first place finish, claim the Eastern Conference championship.

On Saturday, the Thunder and Caribou battled not only each other but wet and slippery field conditions which explained fumbles and dropped passes throughout the game. But Andrew Wilson held onto the leather long enough to give the visitors the game’s first try and Spencer Fullerton stroked the ball well to add the two-point conversion.

Less than two minutes later the Caribou struck back with a penalty but the Thunder carried a 7-3 lead into halftime.

Still fighting wet field conditions, the Thunder increased their lead in the second half with two more tries. Hooker Harry Cheung powered over and 10 minutes later Jonathan Goldie raced around the Caribou defence. Only one try was converted.

A never-say-die Caribou team scored a second penalty kick from Matt de Graff to complete the scoring. Late in the game Thunder flanker Andrew Wilson was yellow carded for a late tackle. The Caribou threatened to score on a number of occasions but the Thunder defence held.

The game marked the first time the Thunder played a league game on artificial field turf and it drew mix reviews. Generally they seemed to like the surface and were happy there were no burns from sliding on it, as was so often the case on older artificial turf surfaces. Several players found the traction was slightly more demanding and tiring on the legs but overall they scored the experience as a positive one.

With the regular season over, the 6-0 Rock will play the Western Division’s Saskatchewan Prairie Fire on August 5 in St. John’s, Newfoundland to determine the national champions and winners of the MacTier Cup.