Facing a depleted Vernon Jackals roster, the Penticton Harlequins took advantage with a 29-22 win in the Okanagan Rugby Union semifinal.
The Harlequins punched their ticket to the ORU championship, which they won last year, as Calum Lloyd scored three tries Saturday at McNicoll Park.
Coach Ken Sommerfeldt used Lloyd on the wing for the first time and the move paid off.
“He had just a super game,” said Sommerfeldt. “I think that was a big feather in his cap.”
Supporing Lloyd offensively were Chris Hanon and Scott Naylor scoring the other tries. Sommerfeldt said his team played a strong game.
“I thought that we had the edge in play all the way through in both possession and territory,” he said. “We made some mistakes in the first half that cost us.”
After a discussion at half, the players didn’t make the mistakes again. The Harlequins backfield played strong and executed, said Sommefeldt.
After getting pounded in Vernon on May 25 because of a lack of players, the Harlequins returned the favour.
Mike Scheller, a veteran Jackal, said that despite losing, he was happy with his teammates’ effort.
“The previous week before against Merritt we were awful,” he said in an email to the Vernon Morning Star. “We lacked intensity and tackled poorly. We improved on both areas in this game, but in the end, Penticton was the better team on the day. They held more territory and ball possession than we did, especially in the second half, and they converted their chances.”
Scoring for the Jackals were Kevin Stecyk, Trevor Miyazaki, who also converted twice.
The Jackals felt they played hard while shorthanded.
“Their fresh legs made a difference in the contest,” said Scheller. “We tackled well, and improved in our rucks and mauls. Flanker Geoff Cranton had a very good game. He made a lot of tackles and stuffed their eight man picks. Travis Beck was also solid in the back row for us.”
The Harlequins will look to defend their championship against the Salmon Arm/Enderby Manthers July 6 at McNicoll Park at 1 p.m. The Manthers defeated Merritt 17-10 in the other semifinal.
Sommerfeld said the last time they played the Manthers at McNicoll Park, they lost by two points.
“We’re expecting another tough game,” he said. “We’ll certainly use the next couple of weeks of practices to put together a game plan that will hopefully neutralize their strong points and emphasize ours.”
A focus for the Harlequins will be the Manthers captain.
“He was dominant in the line out,” said Sommerfeld, who led the Harlequins to a first-place finish in the league with a 4-2 record. “They have a big backfield. We have to deal with that.”