It was a busy weekend of Rugby for the Keltics, with both the U23 and Senior Men in St. John’s for the Eastern Canadian Championship. First up were the Senior Men who would face Quebec on Friday evening. It was a chilly windy evening and the Keltics would look to push the pace from the opening kickoff.
A period of sustained play saw the Keltics pin Quebec deep in their own end but a little over eagerness and some good Quebec defence kept the Keltics out of the try zone. Following a missed penalty attempt, the Keltics were finally rewarded for their pressure with a training ground move that saw Stew Cook go over in the corner. 5-0 Keltics. The remainder of the half saw the few Quebec chances snuffed out by good Keltics defence, and Quebec scrambling but holding out the ever increasing pressure. The second half would see a second Keltics try scored from a training ground move off a lineout. This time it was Rob McKilop who would touch down, conversion from Cooper Coates. 12-0 Keltics. The final score of the match would be the try of the tournament. The Quebec defense was stretched to the right after a kick counter. The ball was quickly recycled, with all three front rowers in mid field offloading to keep the ball moving, the last pass being an out the back door left handed pass by “Sonny” Phil Lanthier, putting Mike Hamson in the corner. Final 17-0 Keltics. Fridays victory would set up a match with the host Rock team in Sundays final as they had bested an improved New Brunswick Spruce side in the early Friday match.
Sundays game would be played under windy conditions but without the anticipated rain. The dry track would suit the Keltics, and from the opening kickoff, which was uncharacteristically knocked on by the Rock, the Keltics would pressure. The first scrum would give the Keltics a steady attacking platform, negating an area of regular dominance buy the Rock, and this would bode well for the Keltics chances. Nova Scotia would turn the early pressure into two penalties from the boot of Cooper Coates. Coates would kick well all day, constantly turning the Rock team around and forcing them back with corner kicks and clearing attempts.
The Rock would begin to build pressure near the end of the half but some excellent set pc defense would result in Rock a Rock turnover and a scrum penalty against the home side. Two late kick-able penalties at mid field were well taken by the Rock kickers and the teams would enter the half deadlocked at 6. The second half would see the Keltics continue to make good use of the wind turning the Rock with well-placed kicks and continuing to pressure at the set piece. Brett Johnson would run a great line off a scrum, brushing off the tackle of the center before using his speed to round the full back and score under the post. 13-6 Keltics, 20 minutes remaining after the Coates conversion. The Keltics would score again from a scrum with replacement scrum half Mark Sweeny putting winger Connor Sheehan in space and he was able to weave his way through the remaining defenders to extend the lead to 18-6 for the Keltics. With only five minutes on the clock, the Keltics would would lose their concentration and discipline, allowing the Rock to match down the field. Scramble defence by the Keltics would seemed to have created a turn over, but the Keltics would be penalized, and a quick tap would see the Rock score in the corner. Conversion was wide 18-11 Keltics. The kick off from the Keltics was taken by the Rock and a series of four Keltic penalties would again see them knocking on the Keltics goaline. A fifth quick tap in succession would see the Rock over in the corner and the Keltics would wait with baited breath for the conversion. It would be pushed wide and the Keltics would capture the Eastern title for the first time since 1998.
The U23 Men would compete against NF U23 and the Atlantic Rock U19 ( featuring 6 Keltics) in a three team round robin event. First up for the Keltics were the Atlantic Rock U19. The Rock side was coming off a 40 point thrashing of the NF U23 side, but it was the physicality of the Keltics side that would see them run out to an early lead. Tries by DJ Burnswould see the Keltic leading 17-3 at the half . The Rock U19 were not done however, and they would storm back and a last second try would see them with an opportunity to win the match with a conversion but as with the Senior Men’s final, the last kick would slide just wide, leaving the Keltics with a 17-16 victory.
Sunday would see the Keltics run out against the U23 Rock, with a win securing the championship for the Keltics. It was a fast paced, hard hitting affair, with Nova Scotia using its size and pace to dominate. The Rock kept things close for the opening twenty minutes but the physicality of the Ketic side began to open seems in the Rock defense. Even a second half yellow and later a red card could not slow the Keltics momentum. They would eventually win 35-5.
Kurt Wheeler, Alex Malay, Jesse Lawerence,
Dennis Lothian, Cam Farnell and DJ Burns
with Three conversions from Peter Massimo