A last-second penalty kick lifted the defending Okanagan Rugby Union champion Vernon Jackals to a 20-19 win over arch-rivals Penticton Harlequins in the season-opening game for both teams Saturday, April 23, in the Peach City.
Lewis McKnight – 1-3 on kicks to this point in the match – drilled the winning three points through the uprights for the Jackals as time expired.
“It was ugly,” said Jackals president Lamp Feeney of the victory. “We need to figure some things out in the scrums to be ready for next week but our young guys came through for us and we were able to pull it off… If Lewis misses that kick at the end he’s cut.”
The Harlequins had a 19-17 lead and possession of the ball as time was winding down but somehow, from the bottom of a ruck, Vernon’s Dom Peterson – in his Jackals’ debut – emerged with the ball, spun, and got it out to his teammates. A penalty call against the Harlequins set up McKnight for the kick from nearly in front of the Penticton posts.
Things started great for the Jackals as they captured their own kick-off and spun it wide to speedy rookie winger Caleb Haberstock, who raced across the try line to put Vernon up 5-0 early.
That try was the real bright spot in the first half for the visitor when, due to poor ball retention and some undisciplined penalties taken, the Jackals spent the majority of the next 35 minutes in their own end and predominantly on their own goalline.
While knocking on the doorstep for long enough the ‘Quins finally punched in a try followed by another right before half time, and with both conversions made, Vernon was down 14-5 at the break.
Halftime was spent by Vernon coach Swifty McKnight coming up with different tactics and game-planning which seemed to pay off when the Jackals took the field again.
Increased defensive pressure by Marley Moon led to an errant ball from the opposing standoff that found its way in to the hands of veteran Bryan Cragg who broke it to the goal line to get Vernon within a score at 14-12.
Penticton dominated scrums and breakdowns and eventually capitalized for a score increasing their lead to 19-12 after the conversion was missed.
Down but not out, Vernon rallied and with time ticking away New Zealand import Jed Miller poached a ball and snuck up the sideline for a score, getting his team into striking distance with under four minutes left to play.
The two teams will finish off the season-opening home-and-home series Saturday, 1 p.m., at Vernon’s Grahame Park.
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