Whiskey Jacks fall 32-17 in hard-hitting match-up with Badgers

Ashton Milligan of the Prince Albert Whiskey Jacks races past a Saskatoon Badgers defender at Max Clunie Field on Wednesday, June 28. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Whiskey Jacks put together a strong second half, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a first half deficit.

Ashton Milligan, Hugh Pritchard, and Derek Haines all had tries for the Whiskey Jacks, who fell 32-17 to the Saskatoon Badgers at Max Clunie Field on Wednesday.

Despite the loss, Whiskey Jacks coach Darcy Murphy was happy with the effort.

“We played really, really well. The score, 32-17, doesn’t necessarily reflect that, but we played against a really good team that’s really tough. This was tough, tough rugby today.”

Colm Cournane kicked one covert for the Whiskey Jacks, who suffered their first home loss of the season. Wednesday’s action featured several crunching tackles, and an injury list that mounted for both teams as the game went on.

“It was just running head-to-head all night,” Murphy said. “I’m really, really proud of the boys for playing tough, tough PA rugby.”

The Whiskey Jacks trailed after the first half, but roared to life early in the second with two quick tries.

The first came from Milligan, who outran a Badger defender to the outside, then made two more tacklers miss in the open field during a long run down the left-hand side. The second came after a weak Saskatoon kick deep in their own end, which the Whiskey Jacks fielded and punched across the goal line seconds later.

Murphy said Badgers are well known for jackalling the ball following a tackle, but the Whiskey Jacks were able to neutralize those tactics early in the second half.

“Coming out in the second half, we tried to correct it (by) running in with one or two support players so we can establish that ruck right away (and) prevent that jackling and that ball loss,” he explained. “Once we put that together phase after phase, we were getting more confident with restarting the ball from one phase to the next.”

However, that was as close as Prince Albert got. The Badgers scored a try of their own in between the two Whiskey Jack scores, then added two more as the second half wore on.

Murphy was happy with how the Whiskey Jacks played, but said they need to be a more cohesive unit moving forward.

“Our first game of the year we didn’t show any rust, but we were showing rust here in the team play,” he said. “When we were making a decision, the whole team had to be on board. The whole team had to react to that decision instead of three or four players. We’re going to talk about that at practice in our free play decision making and make sure everybody’s aware.”

The Whiskey Jacks next game is in Saskatoon against the Kradgers on July 26. The next home game is against the Goats. A date has not been determined.