Losing Brandon Messier proved to be a huge loss for the Penticton Harlequins.
In Vernon, the Harlequins faced the Jackals for the Okanagan Rugby Union Championship and a chance to compete in the Saratoga Cup hosted by Penticton on Sept. 24 to 25.
In what Harlequins coach John Cannon described as his team’s best effort of the season, the Harlequins lost 35-12 after losing Messier 20 minutes into the game. Messier suffered a neck injury that resulted in him being taken to hospital. Test results came back negative and Canon said Messier is OK.
“Messier is a great guy on and off the field, a guy we really enjoyed playing with and it was a little scary when we saw a friend get carried off on a stretcher,” said Jackals veteran Adam Morad.
“He’s one of our players that certainly leads by example,” said Cannon. “I think the team battled on and we tried to use him as a motivation to continue to play well.”
Cannon said to a certain degree, what happened to Messier kind of summed up their day.
“We had a lot of injuries throughout the game to key positions and Vernon played really well,” he said. “We were pretty unfortunate not to go into half time with the lead. We were up 7-0 until the last play of the first half where they tied it up. From a coaching perspective, the guys did everything that I asked them to do. Vernon, to their credit, they played well all season and I guess they are undefeated for a reason.”
Cannon had his group focused on defence as he described the Jackals as a group not being a typical Division III team. Canon said they really played expansive rugby and the Harlequins wanted to adjust to their style.
“There were some very good individual performances,” said Cannon. “In terms of what we worked on and how receptive the guys were, definitely a good building point.”
“This was by far the hardest fought game of the season, neither team wanting to give an inch and each team running and tackling hard,” said Jackal Bryan Bateman.
The Jackals scorers were Garth Cook, Josh Cooper, Dallas Agg, Geoff Cranton and Pearse Wylie. Scoring for the Harlequins were Dave Bellomo and Lex Battaerd.
With the victory Vernon represents the Okanagan in the provincials hosted in Penticton in Sept. 24 to 25.