Game 1 was decided on a last-second kick.
Game 2 lived up to the pre-game hype.
The Vernon Jackals hung on to edge the Penticton Harlequins 14-12 in Okanagan Rugby Union play Saturday, April 30, at Grahame Park, giving the Jackals a sweep of the season-opening home-and-home contest.
Vernon edged Penticton 20-19 in the Peach City the weekend prior.
The Jackals came out hot Saturday, applied pressure and spent the opening moments in the attacking zone. But after being denied on the goal line multiple times the Harlequins would gain possession and kick their way out of harm.
Seizing the momentum the visitors would lean heavily on their bigger backline and pound it inside the 22-meter line where eventually the hefty forwards of the ‘Quins would be too much and prop Connor MacKay-Dunn would maul his way to a score, giving Penticton the early lead 5-0 with a missed convert.
The Jackals, playing well in spurts, seemed to get some motivation from being down and strung together some big runs from wingers Xander Sladen and Matt Insull, who would eventually steal a key ruck deep in Penticton territory then win himself a footrace to the corner and touch it down for a score. Kicker Ross McKnight would then drill a tough kick to give Vernon a 7-5 lead into halftime.
The first half was contentious but the second half both teams came out hungry and aggressive with a sense of desperation. Penalties showed the level of exhaustion and frustration and were abundant on both ends but eventually the Jackals would capitalize on the Penticton standoff taking a yellow card and playing a man down.
Vernon would send a penalty into touch and let reliable Dakota Becker, who was 6 of 7 on the day, win yet another lineout in scoring position, and Jackals’ newcomer Trystin Pie would weave his way through the depleted defence to extend the lead by seven when McKnight nailed his second convert for the day.
Penticton, now down two scores due to the conversions, would sneak a try in late but with the Jackals in clock-killing time from then on out, and playing smart possession rugby, the final whistle blew on another close match between the two rivals.
“Kicking today made all the difference,” said acting Vernon captain Scotty McKnight, giving props to his brother, Ross, who took over the job and made two tricky ones on the day. “That’s been a real weak spot for us but it’s great to finally have that solidified and a thing we can rely on.”
The Jackals get a well-earned bye week coming up and the Harlequins travel to Salmon Arm to play the Yeti in their home opener, 2 p.m. Saturday, May 7, at Jackson Campus.
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