The Niagara Thunder were in their element and it gave them first place in the Rugby Canada Super League.
Playing in constant, and at times heavy, rain and a strong wind on Saturday, the Thunder moved ahead of Toronto in the East division with a 27-0 win over the visiting Xtreme. On Sunday (July 15) Newfoundland’s Rock defeated New Brunswick Black Spruce 38-9. That gave the Rock 15 points after three games while the Thunder has 18 after four.
For the first half of Saturday’s match at Mohawk Sports Park, the Thunder found themselves battling a very strong wind in their faces. Undaunted, the Thunder kept most of the play inside the Toronto half and were rewarded with a penalty from flyhalf Steve Piatek after 15 minutes.
Fifteen minutes later, an attacking Toronto kick was fielded deep in Thunder territory but fullback Jon Goldie offloaded to centre Shawn Windsor who eluded several defenders and took the ball inside the Toronto 22. Not long after, Piatek slotted over a drop goal to make it 6-0.
Play was back and forth a bit but the Thunder defence kept and despite the strong wind Niagara was again able to move the Xtreme back and #8 Dave Knowles went over for a try which Piatek converted to end the half with Thunder in the lead 13-0.
The Xtreme seemed to have a bit more possession early in the second half but several running attacks were hampered by the poor field conditions, even though the wind abated a bit in the second half. Meanwhile, the Thunder kept it tight with several good driving mauls.
Then, a ball moving wide left was passed back inside to hooker Harry Cheung who had little opposition as he ran straight between the posts. Piatek’s convert was a given.
A long period then ensued with both sides battling the conditions made worse by somewhat cooler temperatures.
The final phase saw Knowles pick up from back of scrum, pop to scrumhalf Adam Schouten who kicked to near the corner flag. Pressure yielded a penalty and Thunder chose a lineout, with Cheung scoring his second try and Pietak getting his third convert, giving him 12 points on the day to end the scoring.
The Thunder next meet the Harlequins in Ottawa on July 21.
Prior to the above RCSL match, Toronto Renegades defeated the Lightning (Thunder’s under 20 development squad) 36-10. Lightning’s tries came from Marcus Mitchell and David Reitzel.