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2019 Manitoba Rugby Finals Recap

Proud day to be an Assassin

October 5 2019 was a day that was circled on the calendar since early spring; The Rugby Finals. Coming into the season, The Assassins squads; both men and women planned on being back and avenging last years defeats to the Wasps and Wombats respectively.

The Day began with the undefeated womens side (11-0) taking on the Wasps whom they had lost the past two finals. Conditions on this day were marginal at best, with a wet, slippery, and muddy field that appeared to be the only thing to slow down this determined group. A very experienced group peppered with several new and exciting young players rallied together to make this game a special one. Many of the women have been playing together since the last championship win in 2012 and a 2nd division championship in 2014. On this day, the team had four of their teammates fly back from across the country and from the US to play in the final, where many of the girls on the team and some mens players contributed to help their teammates with airfare to get back for the game. With a full squad the ladies took the field and immediately went to work with a very technical and impressive ball possession attack. Kate Knight opened the scoring early on with a tremendous run breaking numerous tackles from midfield, with Megan Mcmannes making the convert. Little did they know this was all the scoring they would need to win the game. The Wasps then went on to possess the ball and territory for sometime in the first half, but standing strong defensively lead by (10) Brenna Mcnulty the Wasps came away with 3 points.

With a 7-3 halftime score the women knew it was just a matter of time before their physical dominance and superior fitness tipped their opponents over. Into the second half the women began to score and take over the game with tries from Lindsay Wahl, Gracynn Deschamps scoring off a charge down and Kate Knight once again making a house call from a long ways out. Megan Converted on one more kick. The Wasps added 3 points in the last few minutes as it was the best they could do. Our Ladies were victorious 24-6, many would say the field the hardest opponent, making footing very difficult as great runners such as Cece Lopez and Breanne Berke were shut off the board for probably the first time this year, nonetheless they played great, and with Haleigh Bell anchoring the inside they shut down some very good opposing backs.

The forwards were the engine that moved this team all year, and in the Finals nothing changed. The starting group comprised of Nola, Tenbit, Kate, Megan, Cass, Jae, Rachel and Daphne dominated the advantage line the entire day and controlled the breakdown with exceptional support and body position. All 23 Ladies played and contributed to this team win. The substitutions began coming on in the second half, led by Trina Semenchuk who was away for most of the year, but back in time for the stretch run, she came on and made a tremendous impact that was needed coming into the half up by only 4 points.

It was a great victory for a very special and determined group. These ladies were lead by Captain Jae Deschamps and Vice Captain Brenna Mcnulty. We had 25 girls suited up for the final, and 2 more out with injuries. Numbers like that will keep the future of this group looking very bright.

The Assassins Premier Mens side came into April knowing they would be going into the 6th round with the Wombats. As the dust settled, it was again the Assassins vs Wombats for the 6th season in a row (Assassins 3 Wombats 2 Championships). The field was essentially a mud pit by this point in the day, footing was gone and there was little grass to be seen. The Wombats jumped out to a 12-0 lead scoring off of two 5m line-outs, where the Assassins had practiced a strategy that was called differently by this games official then it was in previous weeks, leaving the men behind in the first 5 mins. Looking like this game was going to be a lopsided victory for the Wombats, the guys regrouped and said “well, looks like we just made this game interesting”. With 70 plus minutes to go, the men took control of the play and controlled it until half pounding the ball and controlling the pace with the likes of Bobby Mackay, Jason Conrad, Darian Mackinney and Brett Kehler. Defensively the guys continued to shut down the Wombat attack, led by both Justin Mackays, Caleb Stick, Daniel Strang and Jarett Mclaughlin making many huge collisions and dropping their opponents. The side also employed some tactical kicking (yes kicking) which gained valuable field position in a game where yards were hard to come by.

Halftime rolled around and the guys were still down by a 12-0 score. The halftime talk was; “we have them right where we want them”. And the guys believed it. Veteran 2nd Row Cole Hunt was subbed into the game with the intention of being an impact substitution, and he did nothing less than that. Coles presence and pure power with the ball in hand helped give the guys the boost they needed, playing the entire 2nd half in the Wombats end of the field. The boys battled back to tie it up 12-12 with tries from Cole Hunt, Daniel Strang and a conversion from Daniel as well. Ball possession was the key and without guys at the breakdown like Adam Setka, Pippy, Sean Kolamaya, Gianni, and the efforts of all the guys making it personal, the comeback would not have been possible. The Back 3 made many great kick counter runs to keep the pressure on the Wombats, being Dylan Rasmussen, Connie Jr, and Gianni Alongi. Nearing the end of the second half the Assassins were awarded a penalty, the spotting wasn’t perfect as it was a challenging kick, left of the posts, and in the mud. Daniel kicked as good as a kick as he could have, coming slightly off of the target, ending the game in a draw.

Due to many injuries and our starting Fb being required to leave the country, this group had to band together to have a chance. With guys playing out of position, new players joining in late and vets coming back from injuries the guys were determined to ¬†overcome all the adversity and the 12-0 deficit they gave up early. Regulation ended and the boys were going into overtime. Some veterans had played over 20 plus seasons of rugby, never having experienced an overtime game. To say this was a rare occurrence was an understatement. Overtime was comprised of two ten minute halves. The guys got back to work and continued to stifle the opposition with great line speed on defense and a pounding attack that saw the boys continue to dominate play. The game remained deadlocked at 12-12, With Daniel again getting a shot at goal on a penalty kick, the spot was worse than before as was the field, nonetheless the kick was attempted and again fell short of the target. The game continued on with no scoring, with 2 mins left in the second half of overtime the referee awarded the Wombats a penalty right out front of the uprights on a patch of grass, as our forwards had slipped and lost footing in the scrum, he deemed it unsafe and penalized us. The Wombat kicker made the strike, advancing them 15-12. The guys tried but couldn’t regain possession, with one last ditch effort Veteran (12) Jarett Mclaughlin came off the side of the ruck as they were trying to kick the ball out of bounds to end the contest, and leveled the scrum half where the ball shot out and was about to be recovered by Darian Mackinney, the referee whistled down the play calling an offside on another one of the Assassins, Game Over.

The game was a war, a battle and test of character. As a longtime member, I have never been so proud to play with a group, yes we came up short of our ultimate goal, but rediscovered who we are in the process. Toughness, Character and Tradition. Assassins Rugby. It was a game where the guys left it all on the field, and have nothing to hang their heads about. I am so proud of these guys.

The landscape of the group will differ next year, with Shane Nobiss and Caleb Stick retiring, and Jarett Mclaughlin more than likely stepping back from the premier side due to head injury. We have a great contingent of hard working players ready to come back and make another run.

Both of these squads made it a day that we are all “proud to be an Assassins”. Thank-you to all of the Alumni who have supported us, and more to all of the players who come to work hard and be a part of a great legacy.