By Garrett Simmons
Westwind Weekly News
The Raymond Comets have been an absolute juggernaut on the rugby pitch the last few years.
Few teams have been able to match the skill and speed of the southern Alberta squad, which has coasted to many lopsided victories over some of the biggest schools in the province.
But every once in a while, some healthy competition helps remind the Comets there’s still work to be done.
Saturday in Raymond was one of those moments, as Calgary’s Notre Dame rolled into town and nearly upset the defending provincial champions.
In the end, Raymond’s senior varsity team emerged with a 27-14 win, but not without a great deal of effort.
Notre Dame struck first and led 7-0 early in the contest, as the Comets answered with a try of its own to tie the game at seven. But the Calgary outfit scored again to take a 14-7 advantage, before the Comets responded and made it 14-12.
As the dual wore on to the fourth quarter, Raymond made a few adjustments, as the home side began its rally.
“We made a few subs and brought in some impact players,” said Raymond coach Dan Bikman, whose team took over in the fourth quarter with its trademark tenacity. “We subbed in some kids with some size, because Notre Dame, they totally matched our speed.”
In fact, the Calgary team boasted a player who might have been the fastest on the pitch.
“The first score, they made two quick passes and then it was just a quick run by their outside centre,” said Bikman, who added it’s typically Raymond’s speed that gives other teams fits. “Our team was kind of shocked at first, and they had to deal with a lot of adversity.”
Raymond’s players made a few key adjustments and were quick on its support of the ball and began to better take advantage of its opportunities, as the game wore on.
“When you’re in a tight game, it forces you to play honest rugby,” said Bikman. “We had to make a bunch of tackles on a lot of big, strong kids.”
Notre Dame, the bronze medalist in provincials from 2022, brought its “A” game from Calgary, and Bikman was pleased with how his team responded.
“It’s a great learning opportunity when you face a strong opposition like that. That’s when your weaknesses get exposed.”
Raymond’s JV team, on the other hand, didn’t show many weaknesses, as the Comets easily dispatched Notre Dame by a score of 40-0.
“They had some really strong athletes but our system – we were just a little more organized than they were,” said Bikman, who added rugby is a game that’s all about possession, and it was something the JVs took to heart on Saturday. “Defensively, it was an ideal game. Our kids get really anxious when they don’t have the ball, so they play really hard to get the ball back.”
The layers upon layers of Raymond defenders made it impossible for Notre Dame to score on the JVs.
“It’s hard to move the ball and have to pass it 15 times without a dropped ball,” said Bikman, who added more often than not, Raymond’s stout D forced the Calgary team to put the ball on the turf.
This week, Raymond prepares for a league game today (Thursday) against Chinook, before a Saturday 7s tournament at Chinook.