Thunder eye spot in Eastern Conference rugby showdown

The Niagara Thunder rumbled over the Ottawa Harlequins, 44-14, and secured a chance to again compete for the eastern conference championship in their final Rugby Canada Super League game against the Newfoundland Rock on June 28 in St. John’s.

Shaun Allen (Aurora Barbarians) charges around players. (Photo: Dave Burnett)

Playing at Hamilton Rugby Club at Mohawk Park, the Thunder struck quickly. Within one minute, Stoney Creek winger David Jones scored a try, which Out Half Spencer Fullerton converted.

With the game’s tempo established, the Thunder applied constant pressure, causing Harlequins into first half errors. The Thunder capitalized on the miscues and by quickly moving the ball wide and executing some splendid inter-passing, four more tries were scored before the half ended. Jones – again – Flanker Shaun Allen, Hooker Harry Cheung and winger Andrew Thomson had the scores.

The Harlequins continued to battle and were rewarded with a well earned try by their man of the match, Ryan Kinyne. Chris Miller converted. Though the score suggested a lopsided first half, the play see-sawed with opportunities coming from both teams but the Thunder took a 33-7 lead into the locker room at halftime.

The Harlequins came back with a dogged determination to give the Thunder a tougher challenge in the second half. But, while they slowed down the Niagara scoring pace, they couldn’t stop their hosts completely. Veteran player Dave Knowles, playing in his favourite position as 8 man, smelled the goal line was near and in classic “Knowlsie” style, barrelled over for an unconverted try just five minutes into the second half.

About 10 minutes later, Thunder turned over a Harlequin attack within 10 metres of their own goal line and with some excellent passing sprung Thomson free. He out paced the Ottawa defenders the full length of the pitch to score a superb try, converted by Fullerton. That marked the end of the Thunders scoring and the Harlequins showed they, too, could score great tries. With a counter attack after a Thunder dropped pass, centre Matt McLeod gathered the ball and raced through the middle to score. Again Miller made an easy extra two points that completed the scoring.

In the RCSL Under 20 game between the local Lightning and the Junior Harlequins, the Lightning crushed the gallant visitors and secured their place in the Eastern Conference Final with the Atlantic Champions, either the Newfoundland Junior Rock or Nova Scotia Junior Keltics. The winner plays the Western champion at the eastern winners’ home ground in August.