FROM backpack to halfback, Frenchman Vincent Canolle was the hero, scoring a last-minute try to clinch West Barbarians a 22-17 victory over a luckless Alloway Falcons in their Bundaberg All-Safe Spring Cup clash on Friday night.
But despite keeping their hopes alive, Barbarians have still got a lot of work to do to match the top two sides after Bundaberg Turtles maintained their perfect record from eight matches, snatching a 20-17 result from reigning premiers Fraser Coast Mariners in a classic game of rugby in the match of the night.
Barbarians assistant coach Matt Leighton, who warmed the bench but was not needed to play, said they scored the first try but after that, it went “tit for tat”.
At 17-all, the game was headed for a draw and that may have been a fitting result, but Leighton was delighted to get one back on Falcons after going down fighting in their first two clashes this season.
He also said Jimmy Courtice, who played at No.8 for most of the game, was their best.
“Also Jimmy’s little brother Tom, who played at fullback then swapped to outside centre at half-time, is only small but he was also good, along with prop Karl Nielson, and halfback Vincent had a good game as well,” Leighton said.
“Also we had two players who are in their 40s, coach Bruce Dalton and Rene Patmore.
“There is plenty of improvement still to be made but with a good effort at training, we should be able to do that leading into the finals.”
The Turtles-Mariners showdown also see-sawed but perennial gamebreaker Matt Templeman scored what ultimately proved the winning try six minutes from the end.
But coach Rob Darney, who also played, said the Mariners “could have won the game” as they were awarded three penalties in the dying minutes but opted not to take the kick each time, instead going for tries.
Still, he was very proud of their heavyweight performance.
“To win a game of hard rugby, it required plenty of determination and mongrel, and we did that with everyone standing up – the last six minutes was just rock-solid defence,” Darney said.
“Big prop Kenny Vesikula was our Man of the Match, and Brendo McKeown was also very good at open-side flanker, and so was Josh Tanner at fullback, Lukey Cummins, “Bubba” (Andrew) Abbott in the second row, of course Jason Schuler at lock, and young Joel Turaga on the other flank.
“Mariners had been our nemesis but we stood up for local rugby; we had the crowd behind us and we came home with a wet sail, and we are only going to get better from here.”
Turtles 20 (Jess Tass, Matt Templeman, Kenny Vesikula tries; Brendon McKeown conv, pen) d Mariners 17 (S Schnier, T Devere, C Dougan tries; C Dougan conv)
Barbarians 22 (Joel McIlwain, Vincent Canolle, Jai Schofield, Nathan Rehbein tries; Glen Sherbourne conv) d Falcons 17 (Quade McGory 2, Adam Lucke tries; Rob Bowtell conv)