The Wanderers first super league test after climbing back from relegation and 1st division ignominy was away at Quebec City (spoiler alert! Legendary mini-tour ensued).
The Wanderers arrived with butterflies fluttering, short on numbers but long on gumption. Although many things were grasped by the handsy Wanderers over the weekend, Lady Victory was not one of them (unless that was her stage name?).
The Wanderers won back the opening kickoff and deftly controlled the first 10 minutes. But Quebec’s veteran backs struck the first blow, with a well timed grubber from flyhalf finding the hands of the fullback and then the try-zone. The Wanderers forwards did slowly find their rhythm in the scrums and lineouts, and the backs were brilliant, perhaps too brilliant, breaking the line repeatedly but often outrunning their support.
Last play of the first half. Wanderers desperate to hold their goal line. Line out on the Wanderers 5. Rolling maul and a diving Quebec forward falls just short of the line. The referee bellows “Held Up” even though the ball is not inside the try zone. Quebec scores amidst the confusion to make it 12-0 at half.
In the second half Quebec settled into a rope-a-dope defense, and the Wanderers happily pummeled away at them.
There were many oh so close moments. Prop wonderboy Adriano Marcogliese aka Brock Lesner trampled over half the Quebec city team only to fall just short of the goal line. Refusing to accept destiny’s decree, Adriano writhed and lunged to get the ball across, but unfortunately attracted a double motion penalty. As import flyhalf Tom Lawson apparently forgot his kicking boots in Newcastle, outside center Caleb Jordan dinged a well struck penalty off the goal post.

Brock Lesner ala Adriano Marcogliese
With the usual playmakers struggling to find the try zone, two front row journeymen answered the call in the 70th minute. Hooker Adam Sommer picked the ball from a ruck and scampered to the left in a pseudo pick and go. Quebec was out of position. It was overlap city.

Captain Overlap – Adam Sommer
Adam Sommer instincts were to pass but the Quebec defense gave him no incentive to do so. Then front row prop and headband aficionado Chris “60 minutes” Statham, though well past his expiry date, galloped into the attacking with preternatural grace and power. Perhaps not since last week’s almost-try from Thamil Muthiah, or legacy winger Alex Molson’s Saint Anne’s destroying try in 2009 has the air of anticipation been so thick before a Wanderer’s try. As much to his own surprise, as to his teammates, Statham battered his way over a puny centre and scored the Wanderer’s first try of the season.

Wanderers Top Try Scorer – Chris Statham
Some new faces in the Wanderer’s squad earned their first caps with honor. Matthieu Lamarque made his superleague debut at full-back, and despite having one too many joints in his middle finger, managed to handle the challenging responsibilities of defending against Quebec’s many kicks. Young Tom Lawson debuted at flyhalf, demonstrating his tactical acumen on offense and his north-England heart with some thumping hits on defense. Prop Adriano Marcogliese brought his tenacity to the Wanderer front row, and was devastating throughout. Winger Alex El Ali, a recent soccer to rugby convert, proved he is a natural rugby-man, leading many decisive runs and counter attacks.
Despite the loss, your stoic Wanderers will go into their Super League season, as they did into the streets and bars of Quebec city, with newfound confidence and their heads held high. Especially Lawrence Di Pilato‘s head!
Stats: Chris Statham (Try-leader) 5