Despite a 24-7 exhibition win, Niagara Thunder Rugby was given a solid test by one of the Marshall Division’s perennial top teams, the Oakville Crusaders. The Thunder used the game as a tune-up for this weekend’s opening match of the Rugby Canada Super League on the East Coast.
The Thunder will leave today (Friday) for a game Saturday against the Black Spruce in Fredericton and on Monday against the Keltics in Halifax.
Oakville played without the services of five players who were in the Thunder lineup vying to make the final cut for this region’s entry to the Super League.
Thunder led 5-0 at the break with a try from Cam Mitchell (Brampton RFC). Hooker Harry Cheung, playing against his Oakville teammates, opened the second half scoring with a try after several attacking phases by Thunder. On the restart Oakville caught the Thunder relaxed and were downfield and over for a converted try within a minute. Alistair Clark had the try converted by Andrew Buxton-Foreman.
Niagara responded and after some neat passing between fullback Jonathan Goldie (Oakville RFC), centre Sean Windsor (Stoney Creek RFC) and wing Andrew Thomson (Oakville), Thunder stayed inside the Oakville 22 for a long time against a stubborn Oakville defence, until finally, big Matt Lindsay (Brantford RFC) crashed over for the try which Spence Fullerton (Oakville) converted.
Soon after, flyhalf Fullerton made a neat break from a ruck just inside Thunder’s half, eluded two defenders, then chipped over and took play to within a metre of the Oakville goal line. However, Oakville won possession and a great clearing kick took the play out of their half.
Then it was Oakville providing all the pressure for about 10 minutes, until Conor Wade (London RFC) popped out from a maul on the halfway, drew a defender, and neatly passed to Fullerton near the touchline, back inside to Mitchell who raced the last 20 yards to score his second try of the day. Fullerton converted to finish the scoring.
In a warm-up game, Lightning, the U20 development squad of the Thunder, defeated a Crusader select team 27-7. Owen Clarke (Hamilton Hornets RFC) and Jeff Donald (Waterloo RFC) had strong games for the Lightning.
The squad of 25, and their club affiliation, selected for Thunder’s opening RCSL matches includes: Colin Brown (London), Harry Cheung (Oakville), Chris Dubrawski (Burlington), Spencer Fullerton (Oakville), Jonathon Goldie (Oakville), Dan Gordan (Toronto Scottish), Creag Johnston (Scottish), Dave Knowles (Brantford), Jordan Kozina (Brantford), Matt Lindsay (Brantford), Cam Mitchell (Brampton), Marcus Mitchell (London), Dave Neill (Brantford), Brian Pearman (Stoney Creek(, Steve Piatek (Brantford), Dan Polakoff (London), Donny Radisic (Stoney Creek), Caleb Remington (Scottish), Geoff Sinke (Stoney Creek), Devin Studel (Brantford), Andrew Thomson (Oakville), Dan Visentin (Scottish), Conor Wade (London), Andrew Wilson (Oakville), Shawn Windsor (Stoney Creek).
The Thunder’s schedule this season can be found at www.niagarathunderrugby.com