Shawn Sarkonak of the Brandon Barbarians is tackled by Luke Zinger of the Winnipeg Assassins during Division 1 Manitoba Senior Rugby action at John Reilly Field on Saturday afternoon. (TIM SMITH / BRANDON SUN)
After cruising through the Manitoba Cup pre-season tournament, the Brandon Barbarians Division 1 men’s team came crashing back to earth in their Rugby Manitoba season opener.
Brandon, which hadn’t played in three weeks, was rusty and ran out of gas late as they fell 38-19 to the Winnipeg Assassins on Saturday at John Reilly Field.
Despite the lopsided loss, player/coach Jon Fitzpatrick thought it may serve as a wakeup call.
"It’s a good eye-opener for the guys," he said.
"You put up quite a few points on a couple teams and you start to get a little arrogant, you get a little soft and we got a little soft and a little arrogant. It’s a good learning tool. It should be.
"The guys aren’t too proud of themselves and they shouldn’t be, which is good."
The Barbarians didn’t believe they played very well during the opening half, but managed to keep the game close.
They were tied 12-12 until the Assassins broke through for try and convert on the last play before the break to take a seven point lead.
The Assassins took advantage of some disorganization and fatigue by the Barbarians in the second half to break open.
Derrik Morgan led the visitors with a pair of tries, while Matt Harrison had a try and four conversions.
Michael Birch had two tries for the Barbarians, with Nathan Peto supplying the other and Sean Common kicking two converts.
It was Birch, however, that impressed Fitzpatrick the most.
"He scored two of our tries and saved two with great individual efforts," Fitzpatrick said.
"He’s definitely man of the match. Without him, it would have been a big spread and two more tries."
While the result wasn’t what Brandon wanted, Fitzpatrick isn’t too worried.
He believes there’s lots for the team to work on before the Barbarians host the Wasps this coming Saturday, and that the players will be motivated at practice this week and for the game.
"The first 40 minutes of the game, our back line touched the ball twice and we scored twice," he said.
"It shows that when we did play, we can compete and we can contend. We were in that game until the final 20 and we didn’t play well for the first 60.
"There’s a lot of positives out of the game, and a lot of the positives are negatives so we can turn those into tools in training and start moving forward."
In the Division 2 men’s game, Aaron Kaluzniak and Sean Erickson scored the tries for the Barbarians (5-0-1) in their 12-12 tie with the Assassins (1-3-2). Andrew Richie supplied Brandon’s convert.
Meanwhile, the Barbarian women’s team remained undefeated with a 43-20 win over the Assassins. Erica Cranston and Kayla Bauche both scored two tries for Brandon (6-0), while Breanne Morgan added a try and a convert.
Kiya Townsend and Charity Marchischuk both touched the ball down as well, while Steph Dornn booted a trio of conversion.
Breanne Burke had three tries for the Assassins (1-4-1).
The Division 2 men’s team returns to action on Saturday against the Wasps, while the women will battle the Saracens in Portage la Prairie tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 14, 2014