The Howlers featured players from five different provinces and included four (4) players that will soon represent Canada in the 2011 Churchill Cup. The Howlers were lead by the coaching duo of Milan Mrdjenovich and James Buchanan. The Edmonton Gold was lead by playing coach Jeremy Kyne and was selected from local clubs, with a few additions from Calgary clubs.
The Gold opened the scoring early, with flyhalf Mitch John successfully slotting a penalty goal four (4) minutes into the match. The Howlers answered with a scintillating solo effort by flanker Nanyak Dala, touching down under the posts and giving flyhalf Adam Hines a straightforward conversion.
The Gold quickly regrouped and set up camp in the Howlers end, probing the visitors line with charging runs and effective rucking. Wave after wave of attacked was stifled by the Howler defence and Mitch John elected to slot a drop goal.
Howlers centre, Dustin Macpherson, burst through the Gold backline and won a foot race to score a try for the visitors. Hines was unable to convert the try, leaving the Howlers with a 12-6 lead 25 minutes into the match. The Gold answered with a try of their own. Jeremy Kyne drew in three tacklers and neatly off loaded to Gold prop Joe Sproston, who ran in a try between the posts. John converted the try and gave the Gold the lead. John built on the Gold lead three minutes later as he kicked a penalty goal from short range.
The teams traded trys in the final five (5) minutes of the half. Howlers scrumhalf, Thomas Aponte, burst into the into the Gold goal area from the base of the scrum, touching down under the posts, setting up a routine conversion for Hines. Sprotson rumbled in for his second try of the game at the 40 minute mark. The Gold lead 21 – 19 at the half.
The teams battled for the opening 20 minutes of the second half; sharing possession and entertaining the crowd with great tackling and some great scoring opportunities. Gold centre, Evan Thomas, scored a great try at the 25 minute mark and the conversion attempt by Gold scrumhalf Clay Panga went wide. The Howlers answered with a try by Centre, Ryan Smith. Brennan Marcoux had assumed the kicking duties for the Howlers and was unable to convert from a difficult angle.
Undeterred, the Gold pinned the Howlers in their own end. Gold fullback, Trevor McGeough, struck for an uncoverted try 30 minutes into the second half. The Gold quickly extended their lead to 12 points on a penalty goal kicked by winger Hez Awoko. The Howlers quickly regrouped and Pat Gingras sliced through for a try, converted by Marcoux, reducing the Gold lead to five. The Howlers pressured the Gold defence for the final five minutes of the match. The locals were able to hang on for a 36 to 31 victory over the Howlers.
The friendly was a great finish to Rugbyfest. It was an opportunity for players from coast to coast to play at a high level and build some lasting friendships. Hopefully the game will act as a catalyst to reinvigorate the Edmonton Gold program.