Carson Graham fly half Savannah Bauder captured midway through her B.C. title-winning 75-metre run to touch in Saturday's Triple A final at Rotary Stadium. (Photo for Varsity Letters by Wilson Wong/UBC athletics)
Feature High School Rugby

Bauder-powered Eagles soar! Carson Graham rugby girls ‘Have mojo back’

ABBOTSFORD — Savannah Bauder put on a pair of wobble-inducing, shake-and-bake fakes. 

Then, answering the requirement of a most desperate moment, she started to run for her life.

And over the course of the most dramatic few seconds of the entire 2017 B.C. girls high school rugby season, the Grade 10 fly half with North Vancouver’s Carson Graham Eagles kept repeating the same phrase to herself.

“The whole time I just kept saying ‘I’ve got to score, I’ve got to score,'” she smiled after her Eagles held on to beat Abbotsford’s hometown Yale Lions 19-17 to repeat as B.C. girls Triple A rugby champions under sweltering sun at Rotary Stadium. ““It was crazy, but I had to do this for me team, and I also had to do it for my sister (Dallas), because she tore her ACL in Grade 12 and she couldn’t play for Carson.”

What Bauder did was tear off as clutch a run as could be imagined over the late stages of the contest.

“She is a high-level soccer player, but she is gaining more love for this game,” said smiling Carson Graham head coach Brad Baker. “She made a couple of dummy runs and then she ran it 75 metres. It was unbelievable. Hopefully, she is going to be playing more rugby down the road.”

Carson Graham Eagles players celebrate a second straight B.C. girls Triple A rugby title on Saturday in Abbotsford. (Photo for Varsity Letters by Wilson Wong/UBC athletics)

The Eagles, 53-0 semifinal winners Friday over Duncan’s Cowichan Thunderbirds, got everything they could handle from a Lions’ squad with not only power and size, but blistering speed in the open field.

After Yale, a 24-7 semifinal winner on Friday over Shawnigan Lake, had taken a 12-5 lead midway through the second half behind a tough run set up well-supported passing near the goal line, the Eagles looked to have lost all momentum.

In timely fashion, however, UBC-bound Lyric Atchison put her tough and long-striding ways to perfect use, bulling her way over the try line for a score which Bauder expertly converted, pulling the Eagles to within 12-10.

Bauder’s dramatic self-converted try followed for a 19-10 lead.

However Yale, led by among others, fly half Emily Meier and outside centre Shalaya Valenzuela, came right back at the Eagles.

Yale got right to the touch line and turned the ball over, and later, off another brilliant series of well-supported passes near the touch line, got a try from Natalia Takhar.

The convert, however, on the last play of the game, fell shy.

Yale Lions’ standout Shalaya Valenzuela tries to shake a Carson Graham tackler Saturday during Triple A BC final in Abbotsford. (Varsity Letters photo by Howard Tsumura)

“It was a heartbreaker,” said proud Yale head coach Larry Colby. “It was a tight one all the way through. We were up, they were up. And oh gosh, we lost the ball on the goal line two or three times and we missed a couple of kicks. But the girls played so well, we are super proud of each and every one of them today.”

Bauder had opened the scoring with an unconverted try on the Eagles opening foray of the game.

Yale tied things just before the half as Emily Meier’s big run up the middle was finished at the goal line by Sarah Meier.

“The big thing today was that (Yale) had the momentum and they kept going forward on us,” said Baker, whose program has now won two straight titles after coming up shy in both 2014 and 2015. “We played defence with our hearts and just kept defending until we were able to get a couple of breaks.”

The Eagles had won seven titles in eight seasons prior to their mini-dryspell, but now, with nine highest-tiered B.C. titles in the past 12 seasons, they are once again the dynasty in action.

“The mojo is back, and hopefully our young kids see that,” added Baker.

Of couse, Bauder is one of those. She has two more years left, and the way she was talking Saturday, she may well have found her favourite sport.

“I skipped a soccer game for this,” she gushed. “So I think this kinds of one-ups it.”

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