The 2011 champions Hamilton Hammers picked up where they left off and took the opening match of the 2012 Canadian Rugby League Ontario Championship series, 24-12, over the new entry Ottawa Rhinos.
The club from the capital, however, looked impressive, as the match produced hard hitting, high octane rugby. Ottawa opened the scoring with a power try from Justin Redguard under the posts. Stu McReynolds converted making it 6-0 and a dream start for the Rhinos.
Hamilton equalized when some hard work in the buildup from Christian Miller allowed Lorenzo DeSantis to catch the Rhinos off guard with a crafty dummy scoot from eight metres out. Matt Pettie made no mistake from in front of the posts.
Then a scary moment as Team Canada Wolverines member and Ottawa Rhinos second rower Cam Grace was injured when his head struck the knee of a Hamilton player. The game was delayed as Grace received medical attention and he is expected to be back in action by the third or fourth week of play after receiving multiple staples to close a large gash.
When the match restarted, the momentum was clearly with the Hammers as they devastated the Rhinos with two successive tries. First, Mike Thorne, who looked impressive for the entire match, forced his way over. Shortly after came the second try as Miller broke the line with a spinnerama at the Hammers 40 and turned on the jets going 66 metres for the try under the posts.
The Rhinos responded with a try of their own. McReynolds went wide for Keagan Watcham-Roy who crashed over in the corner beating three Hammers with sheer determination. McReynolds added the extra from a half metre in from of the sideline, an incredible kick that narrowed the gap, 14-12 but that would be as close as they would get.
Miller scored two tries to close out the match. The first with a power move dissecting the Rhinos defence after a buildup that included a behind the back pass from Devon Barbara fooling the Rhinos. Finally, the second after receiving a pass at the 35 from DeSantis, and then proceeding to zigzag his way through the Rhinos defence to seal the win for the Hammers.
Said Hammers’ coach Paul Buchanan after the win: “The team showed great spirit and quality at times with some very tough defence and brilliant attacking play.”
McReynolds, who put in a great third star performance after a solid game with the boot, and some crafty attacking play, was disappointed in the loss but is confident his team will bounce back and show well against the Centurions next week. It is apparent from their first match that the Rhinos have incredible talent, and with some of the players getting into the rhythm of the sport, they are a team to watch for the title and their players will challenge for Canada Wolverines selection.