The Surrey Beavers completed an “epic comeback” over the Squamish Axemen Nov. 19 at Sullivan Heights Park. After falling behind early, the Beavers battled back to overcome the Axemen by three points, 41-38.
Surrey fell behind early in the game when Squamish ran in three tries and added two converts only part way into the first half, putting them ahead 19-0.
Surrey Beaver club member Walter van Halst said the game had it all. It was “wildly entertaining” with dramatic momentum shifts and constant lead changes.
“It was an epic comeback win,” said van Halst.
He said the Beavers lost a “hard fought” game in the B.C. 2nd Division final against the Axemen earlier this year in May, which was the end of the last rugby season.
“This game was a highly anticipated (rematch) between two rival clubs, which have both been promoted to the 1st Division,” said van Halst. “(It) did not disappoint.”
After Squamish jumped out to their early three-try lead, van Halst said Surrey never gave up, winning turnover balls in rucks and making crushing tackles that pinned Squamish behind the line of gain.
He said Surrey’s turning point came when Paul Kelly punched in a try to shift the game’s momentum.
“He smashed his way into the endzone like a monster truck colliding with a Mini Cooper,” explained van Halst.
Second row forward Andrew McIntyre, whom van Halst described as “uncompromising,” then scored a third Beaver try.
“Andrew broke both his nose and the Squamish defensive line en route to a beasty score.”
Winger Mitch Robertson added a try after rambling 15 metres past a Squamish defender to score inside the corner flag. And Iain Small added the final Beaver try with some “elusive running.”
Squamish and Surrey exchanged tries and kicks several times in the second half before the teams found themselves tied late in the game. Surrey then added a penalty to go ahead by the eventual winning score of 41-38.
Van Halst said Surrey fly half and team kicker Brandan Gatto was named man-of-the-match after hitting 100 per cent of both his penalty kicks and his conversions. Gatto was five-for-five on two-point converts and two-for-two on penalty goals.
“With constant lead changes and end-to-end action, the match was as entertaining as it was suspenseful,” said van Halst.
“It felt good to battle back from behind,” added Matt Bose, the Beaver’s club captain. “It was good to end the first half of the season on a high note, especially with a win against a quality opponent.”
The game was the last match of the first half of the B.C. Rugby Union season. The league now goes on an extended two-month-plus winter break before games resume in February.
Van Halst added Gatto and three other Beaver teammates, Nathan Chua, Brandon Craig and Nathan Hutchinson, are all headed to Australia in the New Year to play for the Tuggerangong Vikings, a feeder program to the Super Rugby Brumbies, based in Canberra.
Visit beaversrugby.com for a full list of games in 2023.