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Highlanders show improvement in second game

By: Lucas Punkari

  |  Posted: Thursday, May 29, 2014 12:28 pm

Airdrie Highlanders player Mark Overdulve gritted his teeth as he rushed up the field during a Calgary Rugby Union game against the Bow Valley Grizzlies on May 24 at George McDougall High School.
Airdrie Highlanders player Mark Overdulve gritted his teeth as he rushed up the field during a Calgary Rugby Union game against the Bow Valley Grizzlies on May 24 at George McDougall High School.
Lucas Punkari/Rocky View Publishing

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In a number of ways, the Airdrie Highlanders’ men’s rugby team had a successful day on the field at George McDougall High School on May 24, as it took on the Bow Valley Grizzlies of Cochrane.

Granted, the Highlanders did drop a 53-14 decision to last year’s runner-up team in the Calgary Rugby Union’s (CRU) third division, but the team was able to move the ball down the field effectively and got points on the board, which was a major improvement from its 51-0 shutout loss to the Banff Bears on May 10.

“When I talked to the guys before the game, our one major goal was to make continued strides forward, so that we can create a tradition of improvement that we continue to have further down the road,” Highlanders player and Coach Tim Van Vliet said.

“We were able to get points on the board today, which is obviously a big improvement from our last game, and we were also able to do well at the moment of contact,” he added.

One of the things Van Vliet said he noticed was a problem for the Highlanders in its second game was the number of rucks the team lost to the Grizzlies.

A ruck occurs after a tackle is when the two teams lock shoulders, collide with one another and attempt to move the ball to their team by using their feet.

“When you are playing against a team that is as strong as the Grizzlies, you will run into things like that, as they are currently 2-0 in the league for a reason,” Van Vleit said. “We had trouble recycling our own ball in the ruck, but that’s an easy thing to address and work on in practice.”

“Another thing we can work on is our match fitness,” he added. “It’s tough when you’re a player and you’re trying to get into game shape and actually playing full games at the same time, but I think it will be less of an issue as we go along.”

Another factor that could help in keeping the players fit over the course of a game is the increase in numbers for the Highlanders, as they had a 25-man squad for the contest with the Grizzlies.

“That’s five more people than we had for our first game a couple of weeks ago,” Van Vliet said. “If we can keep those numbers up, we will be in great shape.”

The Highlanders is currently gearing up for its first road game on May 30 at the Calgary Rugby Union field, when it will play the Red Deer Titans in a 7 p.m. contest.

“It’s our first road tour if you will, even if it’s just a half-hour drive away,” Van Vliet said. “In our first season, every home game is a special event, but the road games are just as big deal for us as well.”

“Obviously, you are going to have more family and friends come out and cheer you on when you are playing on your home field, so going out on the road is always a little interesting when you don’t have that big amount of support,” he added.

“However, when you see how much the players are smiling and enjoying themselves, every game is going to be a cause for celebration for us no matter where we play.”


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