Ontario Overpowers Stockyarders

The Ontario Rugby League provincial team has shown that it has what it takes to compete in the United States if it gets the chance to do so after scoring a 24-12 win against the Chicago Stockyarders in an exhibition game in Chicago (photo by Carolyn Ritchie).
Ontario Overpowers Stockyarders

The Midwest Challenge match was organized by the Midwest Rugby League (MWRL) as part of its push to establish an expansion Midwest Conference in the USA Rugby League’s national competition by 2020.

Should that new conference get off the ground, it has been proposed that Ontario could be part of it.

The Canadian side had built an 18-6 lead by halftime of Saturday’s game on the back of a hat-trick of tries by Emil Borggren and then went on with the job in the second forty to seal the victory.

Ontario jumped out to a 12-0 lead behind Borggren’s first two tries, both converted by Denny McCarthy.

The Stockyarders, who were coming off a loss the previous week to a Cleveland rugby league squad in a Nines exhibition match, scored their first try midway through the first half when Brian Rooney intercepted an Ontario pass and took it in for the score.

Stockyarders halfback Colin Doyle converted to make it 12-6.

But as the home side tried to build momentum from its positive play, Ontario extended its lead not long before the main break when Borggren went in for his third try and with the McCarthy extras, the visitors were in front 18-6.

Ontario posted their fourth try well into the second half when Cam Grace got through the Stockyarders’ defense, and with another successful McCarthy conversion, the Canadians had pushed the scoreline out to 24-6.

That’s how things stayed through the next phase, however, the home team got the final try of the game in the last two minutes when Quinn Macali gave a nifty no-look pass to Dave Whitney, who dotted down. Doyle’s conversion closed out the scoring.

MWRL CEO Mike Featherstone feels the game served a useful purpose and given that both teams hadn’t had a lot of playing time together, it was a decent match.

“That was a really tough, solid game of rugby league. We were really impressed with Ontario's professional approach to the game and I feel that their experience showed in the end.”

The match was played at the home of the Chicago Lions rugby club and the Stockyarders had several Lions players on their team, all of whom gave a good account of themselves.

Ontario captain Eddie Bilborough says his team made the trip to Chicago not really knowing a lot about the Stockyarders other than what they’d seen on social media.

“We didn’t really know what to expect. We kind of kept to our structure and we had a few plans that we wanted to execute, which we did for the most part. They were very athletic, and they’ve got a lot of potential in that side.”

Ontario head coach Henry Miers says the scoreline doesn’t necessarily reflect the game itself.

“We dominated possession and territory for large parts of the game, but when we got near the line guys got a bit excited and we turned the ball over a few times, so we didn’t convert the pressure into points and that’s something I want to work on with them.”

Both leagues are hailing the game a success and there are plans for Ontario to host Chicago in a return match in 2019.