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Central Washington Holds Off University of Victoria in BC

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Central Washington Holds Off University of Victoria in BC

CWU and UVic pack down. Photo screen grab from video stream.

After a couple of weather cancelations Central Washington got on the field Tuesday night with a trip to University of Victoria in British Columbia.

This was a game postponed from the weekend due to bad weather, and after all of that the Wildcats came away with a 27-22 victory over the Vikes. 

UVic came into the game as the #2 collegiate team in Canada, having lost the national final 41-7 to UBC in November. Meanwhile, CWU had hoped to warm up for this game with a match against the Seattle Rugby Club, but, ironically, it was too cold for the warmup.

UVic started off strong and scored two unconverted tries early to lead 10-0. Central responded with some good continuity and, after a UVic penalty, launched an attack close to the Vikes' line. After a few punches at the line, 5th-year center Calvin Liulamaga sliced through to score. The Vikes answered to that and led 15-5 after the first quarter of the game.

But as the game went on Central's defense solidified. As halftime approached the Wildcats got secure, quick ball and that allowed a for a break through the middle from openside flanker Arona Tauiliili to the tryline. The forwards consolidated and then flanker Tiai Vavao picked up and went over. With the conversion from freshman Benji Ward it was 15-12, UVic still ahead.

And then a few minutes later the Wildcats Tauiliili forced a penalty in the midfield; the kick to touch missed but when UVic kicked back wing wing Isaiah Simera-Saldana and Tauiliili combined for a little give-and-go that put Simera-Saldana through for a try and CWU's first lead of the day at 17-15.

But there was time before the beak and UVic scored their fourth try to lead 22-17.

The scoring slowed down in the second half, and in fact CWU was able to shut out the Vikes in the second 40. Ward slotted a penalty goal to inch the Wildcats closer, and then with 25 minutes to go UVic was hit with an obstruction penalty at midfield. CWU kicked to touch and took the lineout close to the tryline. The Wildcats won the lineout and No. 8 Drew Farrington wrapped himself around the ball and they drove it over. With Ward's conversion, it was 27-22.

And that was it for the scoring. UVic threw what they could at the Wildcats and threatened the CWU line in the final minutes. However, Central's defense held firm and closed out the game to take the contest 27-22.

"A game where we will learn a lot from, credit to Victoria," said CWU Head Coach Todd Thornley. "They are a good side who probably deserved to win it more than us as they certainly put us under a lot of pressure in multiple areas of the game. I'm proud of the guys. They showed grit and care which is something we can build off of as we get into our season. They threw everything at us. Sure everything, our plans, was a little bit disrupted in the last couple of weeks, but we didn't want to use it as an excuse. So the first 20 minutes of the game didn't surprise me, but after that we settled in and found enough to figure out a way to win."

It's a tough road trip to take the bus from Ellensburg, Wash. to Vancouver, and then a ferry to Victoria to play. But, said Thornley, the team is used to taking difficult road trips in stride.

"We just handle it," he said.

Overall, Thornley said he was pleased with the team's tenacity, and while he stood by the assertion that UVic probably deserved to win, he also noted that there were scoring chances the Wildcats didn't exploit.

Ward has turned out to be a nice addition for the team. The freshman fullback was key with his goalkicking and also made good decisions at fullback. Lock Oliver Dyrshen set the tone physically and, said Thornley, "was really urgent in his work rate."

And finally Tauiliili made several big plays at flanker that helped turn the tide.

Next up for Central is the Canadian champion UBC Bears, who travel down to Ellensburg, Wash. for the Saturday matchup. UBC had hoped to play Saint Mary's two weeks ago but bad weather kiboshed that game, too. Eight UBC Thunderbirds made the Canadian University Championship All-Championship team. No other school had more than two players selected.

Full game video: