Whiskey Jacks triumphant in first game since 2019

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Elijah MacPherson sprints up the field for the Prince Albert Whiskey Jacks during their first game of the 2021 season against the Saskatoon Badgers at Max Clunie Field on Tuesday night.

Tuesday’s 15-10 win over the visiting Saskatoon Badgers at Max Clunie Field was a long time coming for the Prince Albert Whiskey Jacks rugby team.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the first time that the squad had played a competitive game since Aug. 16, 2019, when they squared off in a provincial semifinal contest against the Saskatoon Gophers in Saskatoon.

“Everybody was excited to get back out there again,” Darcy Murphy said. “This game couldn’t have come soon enough.

“It’s just an amazing feeling to be able to start up again. There were a lot of unknowns coming into this game, especially since our team hadn’t played in so long, but I thought we didn’t show a lot of rust and we played really well.”

The Whiskey Jacks were able to start practices at the end of June, though they were in a modified format until two weeks as COVID-19 restrictions started to be lifted throughout Saskatchewan.

“It’s pretty hard to try and replicated any part of the game in practice, especially when it comes to match fitness, the competitive nature of the sport and the non-stop play,” Dominic Elsbury said. “It really takes a game or two work that rust off.

“It was a bit of a shock to the system at times tonight, but I thought our guys played really well. We’re still working on our skill level on the offensive side of things, but the physicality was there and our defence was very good. We weren’t shying away from any contact.”

Elsbury and Elijah MacPherson had successful tries for the Whiskey Jacks on Tuesday, while Colm Cournane had a convert and a penalty in the contest.

Belema Ibanichuka and Davin Arneson responded for the Badgers.

“It was a tight game but I think the key to us getting the win was the fact that we wanted it more,” Graham Pedersen said.

“We played a tougher game than Saskatoon and we were able to keep possession of the ball for a lot longer than they did.”

Tuesday’s game with the Badgers is the first of four meetings that the Whiskey Jacks have scheduled for the coming weeks.

They will travel to Saskatoon next Wednesday night before hosting the Badgers at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 10 at Max Clunie Field.

Their series will conclude on Wednesday, Aug. 18 in Saskatoon.

“We’ve got some momentum going now,” Murphy said. “You can’t teach that aggressiveness that you need to have on the pitch until you play again. I was a little worried about that coming into tonight, but we were rock solid out there.”

“We’re hoping that we can get a few more younger players and new faces out there during this shortened season,” Elsbury added. “We want to build some energy and excitement as we go into the off-season, where we will hopefully have some indoor practices again and really try to get some more guys back into the sport after that long break.”