1999 World Cup
ALSO ON SLAM!
Friday, July 21, 2000
Valley Venom take on Keltics in Super League final
A balanced Fraser Valley Venom side from B.C. takes on the stingy home-town Nova Scotia Keltics on Saturday in the final of the Rugby Canada Super League.
The Valley Venom advanced to the championship game in Halifax by virtue of a 20-14 win over their arch-rival Crimson Tide last weekend. The win left the Venom tied at 4-1-0 with Manitoba Buffalo atop the West Division but the B.C. side moved on by virtue of its regular-season win over Manitoba.
The Keltics (5-0-0) booked their berth in the final with a 16-15 road win over the Toronto Renegades.
The Venom, based out of White Rock, B.C., can live up to their name. The team boasts a 34-year-old prop named (Biker) Mike Beyea from New Westminster, B.C. At 5-9 and 255 pounds, Biker Mike is the size of a small refrigerator.
"He's a tough prop," said co-coach Pat Anderson. "He's full value."
"He used to be a biker, he was with one of the biker clubs," Anderson added, with a chuckle. "He wasn't a Hell's Angel."
Beyea, a machinist, also has a wrestling background.
Then there's a prop named Phil Coffin.
Hooker Alan Borrows, meanwhile, is listed as a care-giver and artist. At 5-11 and 240 pounds, Borrows would have no problem closing a sale or convincing someone that he cares.
And don't mess with scrum half Wayne Bremner, either. His occupation is listed as horse manure director, according to the club's Web site.
Rob Brown will start at fly half in place of veteran Canadian international John Graf, who was unable to get the time off for the match.
The B.C. backs includes fullback Kory Kawaguchi, who has experience with the full national team, and winger Matt Kehler, who has played for the Canadian sevens side.
"Our backs are well balanced, very good defensively," said Anderson. "We just have a very balanced team.
"The thing I like about this year's squad is that it's a team, plays together as a team, follows the game plan and therefore we've had some success."
The Venom players are also dedicated. The team draws from clubs across the Fraser Valley, from Kamloops to Kelowna, with some players travelling five hours to practice.
The Keltics looked impressive in holding off repeated Renegade attacks in the dying minutes of last weekend's decisive game. The team gave up just 74 points in five outings.
Nova Scotia has been bolstered by the addition of Canadian international lock forward Ed Knaggs, who is flying in for Victoria from the game. It will be his season debut for the Keltics, although he was an all-star with the squad the last two seasons,
"It's my home," the six-foot-five, 250-pounder told the Halifax Chronicle-Herald. "(The Nova Scotia team) crest is tattooed on my leg. That's where I will always play when I get the chance."
The Venom had a trek of their own to get to Nova Scotia. Rugby Canada, working on a shoestring budget, had to book airline tickets for the western team in June, even though the site of the final in the east had yet to be determined.
Working on the premise that Toronto would be the best jumping-off spot, Rugby Canada booked tickets to there. The Renegades' loss last weekend didn't help matters and Rugby Canada was eventually forced to charter a plane from Toronto to Halifax.
The Venom squad took off at 10:15 a.m. local time Thursday and arrived in Nova Scotia at around 1 a.m. Friday.
Anderson said the marathon day didn't faze his players, who are just delighted to be there playing for the title.
"It's going to be a tough game, like a national final should be," Anderson said.