A pair of long runs for tries by Jesse Garden gave the Brandon Barbarians Division 1 men’s team all the confidence it needed on Saturday for the Barbs to earn their first win of the Rugby Manitoba season at John Reilly Field.
Garden fielded a kick just inside his own half in the second minute and weaved his way through the entire University of Manitoba Wombat team and across the try line to give Brandon the early lead. He followed that up with another long run for a try early in the second half as the Barbarians improved to 1-1 with a 29-14 victory. The U of M dropped to 1-1.
While his runs didn’t look like they took much effort, the 5-foot-11 fullback from Boissevain admitted he was hit hard a few times along the way, but knew it was worth it to get his team an early lead.
"That’s always nice (to get a lead)," he said. "You never want to play on the back of your feet. You want to have the advantage on them for the whole game. It kind of helps get the pressure off the guys and the guys play better when they’re not under pressure. It was good."
Saturday’s contest was shortened to 50 minutes due to a shortage of players for the Wombats and some on both side had to play in both the Division 1 and Division 2 games.
The Wombats kept the Division 1 game close for most of the contest. They scored their own try four minutes after Garden’s opening score and again after his second to cut the deficit to 15-14. Clément Lepage and Stewart Dyck both crashed through the Wombat line late in the game to seal the win for the Barbarians, who got three conversions and a penalty kick from Sean Common.
It was a much-needed victory for the Barbarians, who believed they didn’t show up in their season opener in the previous week after cruising to the Manitoba Cup pre-season tournament title.
Brandon responded on Saturday by controlling the field position for most of the game and scoring when it mattered most, even though half of the players on the field were battling fatigue after playing in the Division 2 contest.
The win was big for re-energizing the Barbs, and has them feeling good again as they prepare for their next game this coming Saturday against the Wasps (4 p.m., John Reilly Field).
"After last week’s bad performance, we really needed this to come back," Garden said. "This win is pretty big to boost our confidence again and keep moving forward."
Meanwhile, the Division 2 Barbarians (2-1-1) — who also included Division 1 players playing out of their regular position — dropped their first game of the season with a 21-0 loss to the Wombats (3-1-0).