The Mohawk rugby team rallied twice to defeat the reigning OCAA champion Humber Hawks 18-15 Saturday (Sep. 20). Steven Johnston scored the winning try for the Mountaineers four minutes into injury time for the winning points.
There was not a lot of flow and plenty of play stoppages in the first half at a sun-baked Mohawk Sports Park, but the Hawks grabbed an 8-0 lead on an Andrew Petricca try and a penalty goal by Graham Haigh. Then the game turned into a hard hitting and see-saw battle in the second half as Mohawk came out much stronger.
Mohawk applied pressure and Chad Elliot made it 8-5 on an unconverted try. Then approximately 10 minutes later, Trevor Atkinson, rather than catching a ball lofted high in the air, kicked it and followed up himself for a brilliant try to put the Mountaineers ahead 10-8 on 72 minutes. The convert was missed.
Mohawk elected to kick a penalty goal, which veteran James Cumpson made, stretching the locals’ lead to 13-8. However, very late in regulation time, it appeared Humber would win it. A high bounce saw the ball land in the arms of Haigh, who found himself all alone. Mohawk chased him down but Haigh scored a penalty try and converted it as well, as the Hawks regained the lead 15-13.
Even though Mohawk marched quickly down the field well into injury time, it looked like curtains after a failed lineout. However, the Mountaineers wouldn’t give up. They got the ball back, strung the play out and Johnston, on the end of some good passing, managed to dive for the left side of the goal area. He got the ball down for an 18-15 Mohawk lead.
Humber still had almost two minutes to get the play back up field, but time ran out on them in an exciting contest.
Johnston agreed the key was the team keeping its composure. “You get excited, you make little mistakes. It gets to you. You’ve got to stick together as a team and keep composed.” Mohawk head coach Alex Paris said he gave no magic speech at half time. “It’s a good rivalry, said Paris. “With Humber you know it’s always going to be a good game. I think at some point the guys just realized it was time to pick up the intensity.”
Paris also noted it was the first game for Mohawk, while Humber managed to get in some pre-season play. “The guys are just starting to feel each other out, who can move the ball, who are going to be our runners. So I think as we progress from game to game we’re just going to get better.”
The next action for the Mountaineers will be another difficult one as they visit the team that defeated them in overtime for the OCAA Bronze Medal last year, the Fleming College Knights, in Peterborough Saturday (Sep. 27).