OSHAWA – The Ontario Emerging Blues U23 provincial men’s rugby team – which includes five members of the Oakville Crusaders – won their mid-summer interprovincial friendly, 57-0, over Quebec Saturday afternoon (July 25), showcasing the wealth of young talent available to Ontario’s provincial program.
The Blues returned to their 40-plus scoring numbers following their finale at the Canadian Rugby Championship, using their young guns to control the pace of their provincial rivals at Thompson Rugby Park. This was the first time the senior Blues have broken the 50-point mark this year.
Both teams spent the first couple of minutes getting their feet set in the game before Ontario took control with a big run from scrumhalf Riley Di Nardo to get down inside the Quebec five-metre line. This would begin a pressing attack from the Blues with an excellent stand from Quebec defending the try line. Finally, hooker Eric Howard was able to punch through the line and touch down for the first try of the day at the 12-minute mark.
Following a spell of both teams exchanging kicks, the Blues would get a good run from local flyhalf Matt Alexander, leading to a couple strong phases before flanker Andrew Wilson (Oakville Crusaders) was able to touch the ball down.
Shortly after the restart, the ball was quickly back deep in Quebec’s end. Howard would get his second try of the day after driving a maul across the try-line to make it 19-0 for the young Blues team. This pattern continued, as on the first phase after the kickoff, fullback Dan Mathie (Oakville Crusaders) would take a pass and burst through the Quebec line and take it all the way for his own score at the 31-minute mark.
With time winding down before the half, once again the Blues had the ball back inside the Quebec five-metre line. The forwards had a flow of bumping the ball along, when prop Tyler Doran was able to pick and punch the ball through the tryline to give the Blues 29 unanswered points going into halftime.
The start of the second half saw a large number of substitutions from both sides, with both coaches wanting to ensure that all of their players had a chance to enter in the match. With the rain arriving shortly after the interval, playing conditions grew more difficult in the second frame.
Ontario would get the second-half scoring started at the 47-minute mark with wing Kainoa Lloyd breaking free and running it across the tryline for his first tally of the afternoon.
The scoring would continue at a quick pace with back-to-back tries from replacement scrumhalf Graham Dobbs (Oakville Crusaders) and Lloyd, taking the Emerging Blues to the 50-point mark.
Hayden Ryan capped off Ontario’s nine-try effort by punching in a late marker through 76 minutes.
Fullback Mathie took all the kicks for points while he was on the field to go 3-for-6 before subbing out at 52-minutes. Inside-centre John Sheridan would take over the kicking duties following Mathie’s exit, and would close out the day 3-for-3 on his conversion attempts, allowing the Emerging Blues to secure a 57-0 victory.
“Our program saw a lot of positives this afternoon. We were very young, probably with an average age of 21 years old, and this match was a great opportunity for us,” said Blues program head coach Chris Silverthorn, following the match. “A few of our young guys really put their hands up, especially all those guys that played on our under-19 development squad this past week in Regina.”
Silverthorn pointed out flanker Peter Milazzo and prop Dylan Parson as standouts from the group.
Eric Howard played the number-2 spot for the Emerging Blues and scored two tries on the day. He echoed his coach’s remarks, noting that young group around him has the ability to step up and play at the senior level.
“Our forwards caught Quebec on their back foot and then from there they weren’t set in on defence,” noted Howard. “Both in the first half and the second half, our young guys really stepped up, stuck in and did a great job today.”
Howard was quick to acknowledge the same players as his coach, and recognized the rest of the young players as a whole. “They’re really young, but they did great.”
Other Oakville Crusaders on the team include Max Van Dijk, Sawyer Herron, and Zach Pilson.
Some of the Emerging Blues will look to crack the senior provincial team lineup in the Blues’ next matchup against the American Rugby Premiership Selects on Aug. 22 in Ottawa.