TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Sean Common of the Brandon Barbarians is tackled during the Rugby Manitoba championship final against the Winnipeg Wasps at John Reilly Field on Saturday.
The Brandon Barbarians hoped home-field advantage would get them over the hump to win their first Rugby Manitoba Division 1 men’s championship, but they left John Reilly Field on Saturday still trying to figure out what it takes to win the title.
For the fifth straight year, the Barbarians lost the Division 1 men’s championship game, suffering a 24-17 defeat at the hands of the Winnipeg Wasps.
"It’s hard to put into words," said Tyler Jury, who had one try for Brandon. "It just sucks coming in every single year right to the end and then not being able to finish it."
The Barbarians came into Saturday’s contest riding a wave of momentum. They had not lost a game since returning from their summer break and they were excited to host the championship game for the first time in the club’s 32 years.
The team felt confident with the way they were playing, but the Barbarians fell into playing the kicking field-possession game that the Wasps wanted, and the Winnipeg side took advantage to build a 12-5 advantage at halftime.
Brandon head coach Jon Fitzpatrick calmed his troops down at the break and the Barbarians went back to their ball-control plan, but they just couldn’t overcome the deficit.
However, they did have numerous chances to take control. They were one missed pass away from breaking down the sideline on three separate occasions in the first half and weren’t able to break through the Wasps’ defenders from one yard away early in the second half.
The Barbarians were also within seven yards of scoring a try in the final minute, but they couldn’t push the ball across the goal-line.
"(It was) incredibly frustrating," Fitzpatrick said. "In the first half, there were a couple mistakes, some missed timing and one poor decision. You get that close and especially looking at the scoreboard and you lost by seven, so we had three opportunities there, and I think there was three more that we could have had an opportunity to capitalize on."
Kent Brown scored a pair of tries for Brandon, with Sean Common kicking two conversions. Luke McKim, Sid Roberts, Kevin Klimzak and Jared Marr scored tries for the Wasps, who never trailed in the game, while Caleb Stick added two conversions.
The loss hit the Barbarians hard, not only because it was their fifth straight defeat in the final, but because this one came at home and they were convinced it was their time. Fitzpatrick was so distraught that he sat on the team’s bench in dismay and unable to move after the game ended until his team returned to hear his year-end speech.
The Barbarians appreciated the fans who packed the John Reilly Field stands to support them, but they’re disappointed they couldn’t win the title in front of all the supporters.
"Fan support was great," Fitzpatrick said. "It was nice to have a home-field advantage. It would have been nice to put a ‘W’ up there, but it was nice to play at home."
"We’re a good rugby club," added Jury. "We’re picking up every year. It’s going to happen soon."
In Saturday’s other championship games, the Saracens beat the Assassins 71-5 in the Division 1 women’s final, the Saracens were 24-17 winners over the Assassins in the Division 2 men’s final and the U of M Wombats beat the Brumbies 32-20 in the Division 2 women’s final.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 7, 2013