Michael Briones photo Ballenas Whalers players Faith Cook grabs the ball off the scrum and makes a run for it against the Belmont Bulldogs.

Rusty Ballenas Whalers fall to Bulldogs in rugby clash

Head coach Hill says spring break didn’t help locals prepare for tough Belmont side

Spring break is over.

Students are back to their normal routine in school feeling refreshed and re-energized. But for those who are in sports, keeping in shape during the two-week break can be difficult. And when they don’t train, rust quickly sets in.

That’s what the Ballenas Whalers rugby team experienced in their first home game against the formidable Belmont Bulldogs on Tuesday afternoon.

The Whalers showed flashes of form but for the most part struggled as they found themselves uncertain of what to do under pressure. They ended up losing 52-7 but they gained more playing experience and learned from their mistakes.

Head coach Olivia Hill said she was expecting the Whalers to have a tough outing, especially after the spring break, which disrupted their regular training schedule and also the fact that they were facing one of the best teams on the Island.

RELATED: Ballenas Whalers girls are crazy about rugby

“We were playing a team that had more game experience and training than we had,” said Hill. “However, the girls had fun. Spirits were high at the end of the game. They made some incredible tackles and we did put some points on the board.”

The Whalers avoided the shutout when they broke the Bulldogs defence in the second half. They were able to advance the ball and when Emma Harvey took a pass, she sprinted towards the end zone and grounded the ball close to the uprights. Kaitlyn Ashdown booted the two-point conversion. It was the only try for the Whalers, which got the crowd cheering in the delight.

“It was our first game and the girls are happy. That’s all we want,” said Hill, who expects her players to be sore after the game.

Hill, who has close to 60 girls that joined this year’s rugby program, noted some deficiencies in the Whalers game that they will need to work on in the coming weeks as the season progresses.

“The most important thing we need to work on is positioning,” said Hill.

“That is always the greatest challenge as we move through the season is trying to let them know where they stand on the field. Just like junior soccer players they get sucked in where the ball is. So they have some room to grow there.”

The Belmont Bulldogs coach, said Hill, gave the Whalers girls some words of encouragement after the game.

“He told us you can’t teach courage, you can’t teach heart and the girls played with courage,” said Hill.

“They can learn the positioning but they have that intensity and that drive that is required to be a good rugby player.”

Hill said this year the competitive team and development team will play under one Vancouver Island league instead of separating them. She said this is a good opportunity for the Whalers program to develop and gain some more experience.

On Friday, the Whalers travel to Duncan to take on the Cowichan Thunderbirds.

Hill will be taking her competitive team and development team.

“Cowichan have enough numbers like we do to have two separate teams,” Hill explained. “We will play a competitive game and then a development game.”

Next week the Whalers will take on another formidable rugby team, Shawnigan Lake on Thursday, April 11. They may have to play the game away because of scheduling conflict at their home field.


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