With Kootenay Rugby Union play wrapping up, the final regular season game came down to the top two teams battling it out for first place.
The Trail Colonials traveled to Cranbrook Saturday to kick off against the Rocky Mountain Rogues, with the league title on the line and home-field advantage for the championship game up for grabs.
Going into the match, the Colonials led the Rogues by a tenuous five points in the standings.
The Union point format gives four points for a win and a bonus point for scoring four trys.
With a decisive Rogues’ win they could pick up the maximum five points and tie the Colonials, winning the overall regular season in a points-for-and-against scenario.
But in the most important match of the regular season, the Colonials troubles began before the game started.
“We were traveling a little light, with only one substitute and needing a win or a bonus point to clinch home field advantage,” said Colonials co-coach Ray Nelson.
Under a blazing sun, the hotly contested match saw Cranbrook take the early lead but the Colonials answered quickly.
The Rogues wrestled a 19-14 half time lead from the undermanned Colonials but the outcome remained very much in doubt.
Trail’s Steve Espenhain notched two trys crushing the Cranbrook fullback on the goal line for the second. Bryan Lauzon added two converts.
The teams went back and forth, trading scores in the second half as tempers boiled over in the heat. With Cranbrook leading 31-21, the Colonial’s Clint Faulkner crashed across for his second try earning the fourth try of the match and cutting the lead to 31-26, but more importantly it gave the Colonials the bonus point to clinch the season title.
“Literally when we got that one, a cheer goes up on the field and you could see it took some wind out of their sails, because they knew too it was over,” said Nelson.
A tired Colonial side, with home-field advantage secured, allowed two meaningless late trys, including one at the final whistle, as the Rogues superior numbers began to tell.
The final score was 43-26 as Cranbrook earned five points for the win including the bonus point, and the Colonials drew the all-important single point for the four trys.
The final League tally has the Colonials winning the Union regular season 16 points to the Rogues 15. Trail will host Cranbrook on June 18th at Upper Sunningdale Field for the Championship.
This weekend the Colonials play in Penticton.