Heading into the high school rugby season, Saskatchewan Rivers Dragons head coach Justin Derkach figured it would be a rebuilding year of sorts. His main priority was developing his young core of players and teaching the game of rugby.
Instead, Derkach’s Dragons earned themselves a spot at the Rowlands Cup in Saskatoon and finished second in the league. They fell 32-10 to the Martensville Springboks in the finals, a spot Derkach didn’t see his team getting to.
“It was definitely unexpected. We had a young team again this year with a bunch of new guys. Like I said at the beginning of the year, I just wanted the guys to improve as the year progressed and I think we did that,” Derkach said. “The second thing I wanted was results. We didn’t get first place but with the team that we had and the team we were playing again, second place is pretty good for us.”
The Dragons previously beat the Springboks 25-12 just a few days earlier, Thursday at Prime Minsters’ Park but couldn’t duplicate the result at the Rowlands Cup. Derkach said the Dragons were playing a shorthanded Springboks side that day.
“They were missing, I believe we counted, five or six guys when they played us in P.A. that were pretty key players for them. Really I think that was the difference,” Derkach said. “They had a full team (Saturday) and they had the personnel they needed in that game."
Nick Bird and Byren Farrell both scored tries for the Dragons in their final game of the season. For Bird, that’s his second straight game with a try. Both were scored on ‘tiger balls.’ Farrell has been no stranger to the end-goal either, running the offence from the fly half position.
The Dragons had one of their smaller teams in recent years, if not their smallest team, in recent years. They started the year with 24 players, and ended the year with just 17. That’s not a lot considering you need 15 players on the field at all times.
“We’ll have a lot of returning guys but they’ll need to bring a buddy or two to fill in the rest of the numbers,” Derkach said.
On Twitter: @jeff_paNOW
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