The Chilliwack Storm made history Monday, whumping the LA Matheson Mustangs 38-13 in the first home playoff rugby game in school history.
That is an astonishing fact given how long the school’s been around and the moment wasn’t lost on Akeem Williams and his Storm teammates.
“It was nice to have a crowd and see friends and family out there,” said No. 10 in yellow and blue.
Chilliwack rolled through five regular season games without a loss and should have been a confident crew heading into the Mustang match.
But as LA Matheson came onto the field for warmups, CSS looked intimidated by their size.
“That’s true, and we’re kind of like that at the beginning of every game,” Williams admitted. “But once we get into it we know what we’re doing.”
“It takes us a while to get going, but once we do we get white hot.”
The visitors in blue, black and white were big, but once the game began the Storm chopped them down.
Just three minutes in Williams got the ball wide to Cameron Betker who rumbled in for the first CSS try.
“The first of many,” someone yelled.
Eight minutes later the Mustangs bobbled the ball away as they passed out of a lineout. Williams pounced on the turnover and barged in for a 10-0 lead.
The Mustangs pushed back with their first try at the 16 minute mark, marching down field with the help of too many offside and penalty calls against the Storm.
But CSS answered back with big Keigan Slykerman emerging from a scrum at the goal-line and bulling across at the 27 minute mark. Lefty kicker Mauriz Poggemann added the convert.
In a game that seemed intense even by rugby standards, the smaller Storm sent four Mustangs off with injuries.
One clutching his head.
One flexing his hand.
One spent the rest of the game moaning on the sideline with a bum knee and the LA Matheson players no doubt went home with bruises to match their jerseys.
“Honestly I feel bad because it’s a physical sport but I don’t like hurting them too much,” Williams said. “But when it gets down to it, it’s part of the game.”
The Mustangs ended the half with a long penalty kick, making the score 17-8 at the break.
Williams extended the lead three minutes into the second half when he found a sliver of space in the Mustang defence and exploded through for a long scoring run.
With the score 22-13 late, the Storm finally pulled away.
Poggemann connected on back-to-back penalty kicks, the first into a stiff left-to-right wind.
Declan Preston got into the endzone following a long run by Austin Penner, touching the ball down for a 33-13 lead.
Betker added the final try, taking a slick pass from Williams, knifing through the LA Matheson line and dragging a Mustang defender the last five yards to pay-dirt.
The final whistle blew and the Storm celebrated. But coach Colin Skinner settled them down.
“Mistakes will kill you in the playoffs,” he said, referring to all the mental errors that kept the Mustangs in the game in the first half. “If you play our next game like you did today, I guarantee you will lose.”
But he finished on a high note.
“The second half was absolutely stellar,” Skinner said. “Well done boys.”
The Storm’s next opponent will be Surrey’s Queen Elizabeth Royals, who roll into town for a Thursday afternoon tilt at CSS.
History has already been made and now Williams and company will look to build on it.
“Our program is starting to grow and evolve,” Williams said. “More kids are starting to come out and they’re more confident.”
“Our coach is great. He’s there all the time, he knows what he’s doing and a lot of thanks goes to him.”
Game time Thursday is 4 p.m.