After a successful convert, the score was 19-0 for the home team. The visitors coach was hunkered down in the endzone, talking with his club. “We’re playing well, boys. We just need to work on our communication.”
Better brush off the tin can telephone.
The Grande Prairie Centaurs cruised past the visiting Leprechaun Tigers in a 60-21 win over the capital city club in Edmonton Rugby Union (ERU) Division 2 play at Macklin Field on Saturday afternoon.
“I think we did awesome,” Centaurs Captain Tyson Gejdos said. “They tried hitting us with some back plays and they tried hitting us up front with big boys and the guys did a good job of defending. They did put up some tries but that’s expected. We’re not going to be perfect against these better teams.”
Perfect, indeed. The Centaurs still won by 39 points and improved to 8-0 but Gejdos noted the Leps have been a festering sore lately.
“We knew from last time playing them—a 57-15 win for the locals in mid-June—they were going to come up with a strong team and we knew they would be hungry from that last game,” Gejdos said. “The last couple of years, the LT’s have dominated us and had our number. No matter how we were doing, we knew they were coming.”
After the upcoming holiday long weekend, the Centaurs will have the biggest test of the season when the club takes on the Fort McMurray Knights in Edmonton.
The Knights have been hot on the locals’ trail since May. They have lost once this season—a 20-0 forfeit defeat to the Centaurs back in May. The Centaurs are plus-324 and the Knights are plus-185.
“We took the (Leps) game as a test and a good measuring stick because the Fort Mac game—in two weeks time—it’s a one versus two,” Gejdos said.
“(The Tigers) brought some guys from Division 1 and this was exactly what we needed, a challenge because playoffs are coming. We needed that big push to see where we are,” Centaurs fullback Julian Gonzalez added. “They gave us a little bit of a fight.”
Speeding to excess
Speaking of Gonzalez. The former soccer player has speed to burn, enough extra for three or four guys.
The fullback is everything the club wants in terms of a guy who can fill a position on the field, while playing beyond expectations. While one of his major roles is to be a speed freak—lots of guys grab at air when he runs—he’s also the last line of defence at the fullback position.
Gonzalez is wiry, not a large man, but he hunts and hits like the weekend flu.
“(Gonzalez) is probably one of our smallest guys but he’s one of our hardest tacklers,” Gejdos said. “Rarely, do guys break our line, but when they do, they come up to him and he crushes them into the ground. It’s nice having him back there because it’s a nice line of defence.”
As Gejdos says, “Having him back.”
Gonzalez played with the Centaurs three seasons ago but had a heated moment with Head Coach Gus Fai and he was gone. Anyone who knows Fai knows he doesn’t tolerate that kind of behaviour whether you’re a star player or not
The former NAIT student returned to Grande Prairie and committed to the locals during the off-season. Gonzalez showed up to training at the Crosslink County Sportsplex during spring workouts. He wanted to play and was probably uncertain about the kind of reaction he would receive considering how he left things.
Picture the initial meeting between Gonzalez and Fai: two rugby men embracing, with hearty back slaps, washing years of regret away in one human moment.
“I met with (Fai) and he has always been open arms,” Gonzalez said. “He welcomed me again and asked me to ‘come and play.’ I love the atmosphere, I love the players and I love the team. It’s a family, to me.”
“He came back this year and was excited to get right back into things,” Gejdos added. “We were happy to have him and welcomed him right back into things and I think that’s exactly what he wanted but I don’t know if he was expecting it. He’s out Tuesday and Thursday at practice and comes out to dinner with us. I think that’s what he wants and that’s what we want.”