Brandon Barbarians’ Brad Lewis fends off Winnipeg Wasps’ Luke McKim during rugby action Saturday afternoon at John Reilly Field.
(COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
The Brandon Barbarians got some last-second heroics to lift them into the Rugby Manitoba Division 1 men’s championship game.
Down by six points in the waning minutes of Saturday’s semifinal game against the Winnipeg Wasps, Michael Birch held up two Wasps players on the goal-line to stop what could have been a game-clinching try.
The Barbarians then moved up the field after gaining possession and, after the referee announced last possession, Aaron Kaluzniak broke through the Wasps line to scored a try. Sean Common kicked the ensuing conversion to lift Brandon to an 18-17 win.
What made the final plays even more incredible at John Reilly Field was neither Kaluzniak nor Common knew how key their plays were when they took place.
"The thing is I didn’t know how much time was left, so I treated it like any other play," Kaluzniak said. "I was looking for a hole all day and finally one opened up and we scored. Then we knew how much time was left and I was like ‘Oh, it’s a good thing we scored.’ And I didn’t even know what the score was."
"I thought we had actually won it before that (convert)," added Common. "I was trying to get it done. I just do like every other kick, you try to remain focused. I honestly didn’t know the significance of it when I stepped up. I was just lucky it went over."
Brandon was held to two Common penalty kicks in the first half and trailed 7-6 at the break. The Barbarians regained the lead on a Common try, but gave up 10 straight points and battled for field position before pulling out the game in dramatic fashion.
The victory reminded Brian Yon, who was filling in as head coach for Jon Fitzpatrick, of how the Barbarians won their first league title in 2003. In that semifinal in Brandon, the Barbarians needed a last-play score to reach the final, which they won over the undefeated Rowdies. Brandon also snapped a long losing streak in the league final in 2003.
This year, the Barbarians will once again face the University of Manitoba Wombats, who beat the Winnipeg Highlanders 40-30 in Saturday’s other semifinal in Winnipeg.
This is the fourth straight year the Barbarians will be in the final — they lost each of the past three years — and the third straight meeting between the Barbarians and Wombats.
While Yon hopes the Barbarians can repeat that 2003 victory this Saturday in Winnipeg, he knows his team will need a better effort than what it gave in the semifinal.
"We have to regroup," he said. "No offence to the Wasps, but the competition’s going to be a lot tougher next weekend. … (We have to) just put in a good week of training and let things fall into place and away we go."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 24, 2012