By Andrew Mitchell and Adam Daff
For the past three years the Rowers RFC has dominated the Whistler Hoary Marmots Rugby Football Club. Saturday, in the fourth exhibition game between the teams in as many years, it was the Marmots turn.
The Marmots, playing on home turf, set the pace with a strong front pack, a quick back row, and a more disciplined defensive game.
The game got underway in the rain, which continued for two of three 20-minute periods the teams played.
Whistler took advantage of their possession early, scoring three tries and converting the first goal of the period.
The Rowers scored once near the close of the first period and made the conversion to make the score 17-7 for Whistler.
In the second half the Rowers made better use of their experience, scoring in the opening minute and controlling possession.
Whistlers defence and counter-attack kept them in the game and the Marmots managed to put one more unconverted try on the board, but by the time the third period rolled around the score was 22-21.
Some faster back line moves and solid running from the back rowers resulted in another Whistler try, and this time they converted to put the score at 29-21 which meant the Rowers would need a try and a penalty to tie up the game, and two tries to win.
As the intensity rose in the final 10 minutes some scuffles broke out but the Marmots remained collected, finished tackles, kept the Rowers contained and made the most of every possession until the final whistle.
Drew Brunton, the Marmots rookie of the year last season, scored two of the Marmots tries. He gave the Marmot forwards all the credit for winning the rucks and mauls and getting the ball out to the backs.
"Its easy when they do all the work in the middle and throw it out to you," said Brunton. "We just had to go out there and run our legs off, and make the odd hit."
After games against Simon Fraser University and the Williams Lake tournament some of the Marmots are getting match fit and it showed last Saturday.
"Were playing more as a team, so more games are definitely helping," said Brunton.
Fullback Jono Hirst from Terrigal in NSW, Australia, scored the last try and conversion for the Marmots, putting the game out of reach.
It was Hirsts first game for Whistler and he had a strong game in the backfield, catching kicks, stopping breakaways, and joining the backs when they were on the attack.
"That was fun," said Hirst. "Rugbys rugby, wherever you play it. Everybody knew what they were doing on the field, and we scored when we had the opportunity. Thats all it takes."
Prop Mike Nannery, a player for the UBC Thunderbirds who is living in Whistler this summer, plowed in a good try through some heavy traffic in the second period. He said he was just glad to have an opportunity to play.
"All I know is that Im having a great time in Whistler, and now its even better because I can play rugby," he said.
Joe Sherman, a second rower, made a great covering tackle in the second quarter and also scored for the Marmots.
"Thats two scores for the forwards," he said. "You dont see that every day. Those guys (the Rowers) were pretty big."
Special mentions go to Steve Richards, who despite a damaged shoulder made an immediate impact when he came on, and hooker Christian Boyd who played most of the game with a knee injury.
The Marmots will be in Burnaby this Saturday, July 17, to play in the annual SFU 7s tournament. The following weekend, on July 24, the Marmots will host the annual Whistler 7s at Whistler Secondary school.
Up to eight teams, plus womens teams, are expected, and the Marmots are inviting everyone in the community to come out and watch. There will be a barbecue for players and the public.