Welcome to Varsity Letters’ weekly B.C. boys high school rugby report.
Conference semifinals dominated the landscape as Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland teams geared up for title tilts Wednesday and Thursday.
Here’s a look:
ST. GEORGE’S 32 HANDSWORTH 5
VANCOUVER — Handsworth brought an edgy, physical style to the Vancouver all-boys school, but couldn’t gain traction on a 15-5 halftime deficit.
After Saints put up tries by Jack Abramowich, Liam Cooper, and Dillon Hamilton, the Royals put together multiple forward phases 10 metres out of the St. George’s try zone, eventually leading to a well-earned pick-and-drive score.
“Handsworth had opportunities to put up points on us in the second half, but our line speed and cross-field defense stepped up,” admitted Saints coach Mike Stiles.
Grant Newell-Madu, Max Brittingham and Jacob Bourne all crossed the line in the second half while Connor Palmer added one conversion for the winners.
CARSON GRAHAM 41 WEST VANCOUVER 13
WEST VANCOUVER — The winning Eagles were anything but decisive until the late stages, as Seamus Murnaghan, Logan Weidner and Austin James scored unanswered tries for the North Vancouverites, putting some distance between themselves and the rival Highlanders in a game in which they led just 22-13 some 15 minutes into the second half.
“We didn’t play in our structure but we were able to out-athlete them,” said Carson Graham coach Glen McKinnon. “Austin James has some big runs and tackles but if we play that way again, we will struggle against Saints next week.”
Charlie McMillan, Talmadge Williamswood, James and Max Faber opened the scoring for the Eagles, while the Highlanders got two penalties and a conversion from fullback Ben Welsh and a try from No. 8 Cole Roberts.
West Vancouver went into the game with seven Grade 12 starting forwards unavailable due to injury or academics.
Grade 11 Nolan Zen played his first game ever at second row and Grade 11 flanker Joaquin Cacho Sousa tackled well and was good in the line out.
“We have worked hard to build a program over the past four years,” said Highlanders’ coach Paul Welsh. “It’s a ‘next man up’ mentality and the kids stepped in and played well.”
McKinnon’s Eagles now enter a key few days of build-up in anticipation of Saints, whom they beat 22-19 on April 24 at Klahanie.
“This week will be building towards the New Zealand shield game,” said McKinnon whose team lost last season’s Shield final to St. George’s by a 43-16 count. “I would love to get the trophy back. It’s one of the coolest ones around. We were able to surprise Saints last time and I know they will be ready for us this time. The have such a good coaching staff and resources so it’s going to take a full team effort to beat them again.”
The New Zealand Shield game will tip off at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
Meanwhile, a half hour earlier at two other locations:
*R.A. McMath is at Camosun Park to meet Lord Byng in the Lower Mainland’s 5th-6th match.
*In an all-North Shore derby, West Vancouver and Handsworth lock horns in the third-fourth game at Klahanie.
DOUBLE A TIER 1
COLLINGWOOD 55 BYRNE CREEK 0
WEST VANCOUVER — Owen Huston tallied a pair of tries as a younger line-up of Cavaliers topped Burnaby’s first-year Bulldogs.
“The team played very well and our pattern of play gave us an advantage over the inexperienced Byrne Creek players who are really still learning the game,” said Collingwood coach David Speirs. “Byrne Creek, though, has a bright future.”
Harry Philpotts, Wes Caplan, Jonny Kottmeier, Connor MacDonald, Spencer Boyd and Chase Soprovich added the other tries. Arthur Na booted three converts while Lucas Beaupre and Philpotts kicked one apiece.
For Byrne Creek, Carlos Francia played well after a last minute injury in warm up forced him to take on the position of fullback for the first time this season.
Francia made a number of tackles while Adam Zerbinos also had a strong performance, stepping into the tough role of hooker and stabilizing the scrum for Byrne Creek.
The Cavaliers now advance to face its crosstown rivals, the Rockridge Ravens, in Thursday’s New Zealand Shield Lower Mainland final at Brockton Oval (3:15 p.m.).
ROCKRIDGE 43 SIR CHARLES TUPPER 3
WEST VANCOUVER — The Ravens found their way back to the Shield final beat East Vancouver’s Sir Charles Tupper Tigers.
The early part of the game was a bit of a seesaw affair with Tupper able to score the first points of the match on a penalty kick by Kiya Vivier-Miller.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, that was it for the scoring as Rockridge took a 29-3 half time lead en route to the win.
“We had a good team effort and I thought we were able to put some points on the board quickly,” remarked Rockridge head coach Perino Zambon. “Tupper defended well and we were forced to put together some phases of possession in order to break through their defence.”
Leading the way for the Ravens with strong performances were prop Kris Kemp and centre Seb Geddes as well scrum half Ryan Sewell. Henry Finck was among the standout substitutes who performed well over the second half.
“Rockridge’s ability to win the physical battles at the rucks let them establish a base for their team to go forward all day,” said Tupper coach Joe Lee.
Tupper and Byrne Creek will meet Tuesday at Burnaby Lake in the Lower Mainland’s third-fourth place game (4 p.m.).
TRIPLE A TIER 1
ROBERT BATEMAN 29 ABBOTSFORD 19
ABBOTSFORD — When you talk about efficiency in B.C. high school rugby, Sam Davenport’s name come up a lot.
On Thursday in the Fraser Valley 5th-6th match at Carlton Oval, Davenport and the rest of the Robert Bateman Timberwolves maximized their opportunities early en route to a win over its tough and plucky crosstown rivals, the Abbotsford Panthers.
Not only did Davenport show some tremendous footwork off a stolen scrum on a possession which eventually led to an Andreas Guzman try and a 24-0 halftime lead, he also went 3-for-4 on conversions and added a penalty boot for good measure, and in a 10-point win, those were nine big points.
“His play today was crucial,” said Bateman head coach Nathan Sagert.
Brody Plowright broke the defensive line to score Bateman’s first try of the match. The Wolves kept coming and once again through the play of its backs, Nick Mahon was open on the wing to score in the corner for a 14-0 lead.
Davenport’s convert came from a tough angle. He then followed with a penalty kick before setting up the Guzman try just before the break.
Abbotsford, however, scored three of the second half’s four tries, including a converted major as time expired.
Bateman’s lone second-half score came when George Piper scored off a quick tap-and-go penalty for a 29-12 lead.
YALE 42 SOUTH DELTA 17 & EARL MARRIOTT 41 R.E. MOUNTAIN 5
ABBOTSFORD — Surrey’s Earl Marriott Mariners are about as expert a source as you’re apt to find on preparing for the Yale Lions within the high-stakes atmosphere of a B.C. high school rugby post-season.
Yet even after a solid decade of big-game moments between the two programs, Mariners’ longtime head coach Adam Roberts admits that the 2019 version of the Abbotsford powerhouse his team will face in this coming Wednesday’s Fraser Valley Triple A Tier 1 championship match has a few more bells and whistles to contend with.
“It’s one of those things where I think we’ve faced each other in the Fraser Valley final like seven times in the last 10 years, so we know each others programs so well,” Roberts said Saturday morning, reflecting on Thursday’s two semifinal scores which have created the title tilt at Rotary Stadium.
“They are always a very tough and physical team,” added Roberts’ whose No. 3-ranked Mariners beat Langley’s visiting and No. 8-ranked R.E. Mountain Eagles 41-5 in its Final Four clash. “But this year I hear that have a lot more speed out wide. We’ll see how it all stacks up because we also have a lot of speed on the outside. I am really excited to see how our boys will stack up physically.”
For their part, Yale indeed lived up to the reports as it pertained to their pace.
Rowan Bridger and Tayton Geinger each sped across the try line on multiple occasions Thursday at the No. 7-ranked Lions’ own Abbotsford school ground, at one stage scoring 33 straight points aspart of a 42-17 win over the defending B.C. champion and No. 1-ranked South Delta Sun Devils.
It was match featuring two undefeated teams, but perhaps more than that, it was a rematch of last season’s Fraser Valley semifinal which was won by South Delta.
“Same game, same place, so our boys were pretty pumped and looking for a little revenge,” admitted Yale head coach Doug Primrose.
“I thought our thought our pack played well and matched them up front,” continued Primrose, whose team surrendered a game-opening penalty to South Delta ace Evan Paterson, but then found plenty of answers with a series of big breaks, leading 15-3 at halftime and very quickly, 33-3 after feasting off numerous Sun Devils’ turnovers early in the second half.
“They are a big, strong team,” added Primrose. “South Delta always is. But we were able to win the breakdown and provide the ball out to the backs and we’ve got a lot of speedy backs on this team and they were all able to finish for us.”
Keeping tally of the offensive onslaught was not easy, yet the sheet included additional tries from Jackey Kunag, Brayden Stewart and Daygen Guidone.
South Delta’s Paterson and Ethan Troniak added tries late in the game with the match well out of reach.
Sun Devils’ head coach Spencer Baines, whose team must now regain its health and rebound against a very tough Mountain team in next week’s third-fourth match if his team to carry any momentum into provincials, remained hopeful his team would use the loss in the most constructive way possible.
“Today was a total team effort,” said Baines. “Like we just said to our guys, this will be a positive thing for us, because we hadn’t faced a defeat and many games have not pushed us to where we need to be. So you only get better by playing games like this.”
Earl Marriott’s Roberts can certainly attest to Baines’ comments.
The Mariners once again elected to test their mettle within the five-team Quad-A Premier League this season, one which pares down to four for the provincial tournament.
As the fifth-place team, Earl Marriott went winless in the Premier League, yet what South Delta faced Thursday against Yale is what Earl Marriott faced the entire season against the likes of St. George’s, Oak Bay, Carson Graham and Shawnigan Lake.
And yes, it’s helped the Mariners get ready for the late-season life at Triple A.
“We had a couple of tight, tough losses against Carson Graham and Oak Bay, and then the wheels kind of fell off against St. George’s and Shawnigan because we couldn’t really match their physicality,” said Roberts. “But it’s been good for our kids. A lot of programs might shy away from the stiffer competition but our players have been resilient. It’s very tough to get beatem every time and still bring a positive mind frame and still be ready to get back to work, but you could see what they had learned from those games against Mountain because our defence was very staunch.”
Talon McMullin and Takoda McMullin each scored a pair of tries for the winners, while Sam Laroue, Jackson Croze and Keegan Aves added one each. Takoda McMullin booted three converts.
Yale’s Primrose, speaking to what he saw against South Delta, is hopeful that speed will continue to translate and help his team make a healthy post-season run.
“Right through our whole back line and even our back row, we’ve got a lot of pace on this team and they are getting more and more confident with that,” Primrose said. “When they see the gaps, they tend to just shoot through and keep going and no one can catch them. We have a lot of Grade 11s on that back line which is nice, and those guys are stepping up big.”
BURNABY CENTRAL 36 WINDSOR 34
BURNABY — Lynden Duggan was big, but then so too was Sateki Vikilani.
As a pair, they helped the host Burnaby Central Wildcats to a narrow win over North Vancouver’s Windsor Dukes on Wednesday in the Tier 2 New Zealand Shield Lower Mainland championship match at Burnaby Lakes.
Duggan, the outside centre, scored five tries on the day, three of which were converted by Vikilani, the team’s ice-veined Grade 8 kicker.
Sam Hsu opened the scoring in the fifth minute, and that combined with Duggan’s first two tries of the contest had the Wildcats on top 17-5 at the break.
Duggan’s final two tries were each converted by Vikilani, both much needed as Windsor finished the game with a pair of unanswered tries to pull within two.
A strong game was also had by Central’s Italian international student Alessandro Foglia who has led by example all season.
“Like so many other teams, we’ve had to battle through injuries this season,” said Andrew Vagnarelli, who co-coaches the Wildcats with Bryan Dunse. “We were lucky to have most everyone available today and we were able to put in an excellent team effort.”
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