Aarun Mahal of the Kelowna Cows tackles Kyle Richardson of the Vernon Jackals in Okanagan Rugby Union action Saturday at Grahame Park. (Lisa Mazurek/Morning Star)

Rookies help Jackals tip Cows

Vernon 4-0 in Okanagan Rugby Union

The Vernon Jackals ambushed the Kelowna Cows 50-7 in Okanagan Rugby Union action Saturday at Grahame Park.

After a two-week break, both teams struggled early with knock-ons and penalties in abundance all over the field. The Cows held the majority of possession in the opening quarter but the Jackals’ defence firmed up near the goal line a few times and got some big line breaks by Dustin Hastings and Reece Milham to relieve the pressure.

The Jackals (4-0) returned to form in the second quarter and were able to run multiple phases from solid tackling and rucking by the forward pack led by big men Richard Rankin and Fungai Kusikwenyu, formerly of the Kelowna Crows rugby team who now plays with Vernon.

“We were down some key players due to injuries and other commitments so it was great to see some new guys step up,” said Vernon coach Clay Coles, referring to the rookies Jordan Nordstrom-Young, Papa Jon Baron and Corey Suastegui, who scored their first tries for Vernon in the second half.

Veteran Kyle Richardson and Travis Beck each pocketed a pair of tries as the defending champion Jackals jolted the winless Cows.

“Kelowna looked much stronger than last time we played and I’d expect a big improvement if we end up meeting them in playoffs,” added Coles.

Playoffs are a few short weeks away and Vernon looks to lock up first place and home-field advantage throughout by beating the Penticton Harlequins Saturday (1 p.m.) at Grahame Park.

Penticton is still in the hunt for second overall and will be looking to rebound from a 34-0 defeat at the hands of the Salmon Arm Manthers.

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