ABBOTSFORD — In the final Fraser Valley boys championship game ever played in any sport, the Brothers McMullin were the truest definition of rugby brothers in arms.
Takoda McMullin’s successful convert kick at the absolute death of the game clock stood as the winning points Wednesday afternoon at Rotary Stadium, giving Surrey’s Earl Marriott Mariners a heart-stopping 24-22 walk-off win over Abbotsford’s Yale Lions in the last Fraser Valley senior boys Triple-A rugby title game ever contested.
With a complete re-alignment of zones around B.C. on tap for next season, McMullin calmly kicked the winning points, just seconds after he had set up his brother Talon McMullin for the game-tying try as the Mariners earned the No. 1 seed heading into the Triple-A portion of the BCSSRU’s 2019 B.C. championships which reconvene a four-day run beginning Wednesday right back at Rotary Stadium.
The two brothers embraced, and as Yale players hunched over, gutted by the exploits of a Marriott squad which twice trailed by 10 points in the second half, simply refused to lose.
The McMullin brothers, in fact, took turns scoring all four of the Mariners’ tries on the day, including the first by Takoda in first three minutes of play.
Yet it was Talon’s late venture over the try line, with just 23 seconds left on the game clock, which proved the most dramatic.
That is, until you ask Talon about it and he gives you the old ‘Hey, he’s my brother and we’ve got telekinetic powers’ explanation.
“It’s a full confidence between us,” Talon began. “It’s a play we have run the whole year and a play we have been successful with the whole year.
“(Takoda) makes the decision whether to go left or right, and he usually goes to me because he trusts me and it’s just that connection we’ve had since we were little. The second he started running and gave it up, I knew I was scoring.”
The view from the opposition sideline?
“We saw their guys on the wing and we were hoping our guys would get out quick enough to stop them,” explained Yale head coach Doug Primrose afterwards. “I don’t know. Maybe our guys got a little nervous with the amount of time left on the clock.”
Yale’s Logan Visco gave passionate chase and laid out with everything he had but Talon McMullin was able to dance through the contact of the attempted tackle, maintain his balance and find touch, setting up a finishing kick by brother Takoda that had him carried off the field by his teammates just seconds later.
Classy Marriott head coach Adam Roberts stopped just shy of saying that Yale should have won the game.
“Full credit to Yale, they were unbelievable,” gushed Roberts. “I don’t know. We deserved to win. We won. But I think Yale… there’s a lot left for provincials to have another toe-to-toe battle with them.”
Earl Marriott, who had taken countless lumps over a winless regular season spent in the five-team Quad A Premiership were a team with a purpose after being moved down to Triple A for the post-season.
Takoda McMullin’s game-opening try seemed to suggest as much.
Yet from that point forward, for the majority of the match, Yale was aggressor and the more effective team.
Dynamic outside centre Rowan Bridger, who would be forced to leave the game with injury in the second half, scored on a powerful run with Daygen Guidone’s convert knotting the score at 7-7.
Guidone booted a penalty kick for a 10-7 Lions’ halftime lead.
In the second half, Yale flanker Joey Forfellow struck first with a converted try for a 17-7 lead.
The teams then traded tries.
Marriott’s Talon McMullin and Yale’s Visco each crossed the line for their teams, yet Yale’s convert attempt pinged off the bar and Marriott’s was blocked, putting the Yale lead at 22-12 with 12:25 remaining.
That lead held until just over seven minutes remained.
Takoda McMullin scored his second try of the game but was unable to help his cause on the convert, nonetheless pulling the Mariners ever closer at 22-17.
That then set the stage for the McMullin family finale.
“We came out flat, I don’t know what was going on, but we just had no oomph,” said Roberts. “But the boys stayed with it. They have been resilient all year. We came out and scored and almost took our foot off the gas right away. But full credit to Yale. They super physical at the breakdown and kind of gave us the stun.”
Losing Bridger was a blow to Yale, who were forced to do some shifting through their ranks over the latter half of the contest.
For his part, Primrose was happy with the overall execution by his team, yet admitted Marriott’s speed on the edges meant any mistakes would be costly.
“We battled hard all game but at the end it came down to a few little mistakes and they capitalized. That is the way it goes in these types of games,” he said. “We knew that they had some good backs so we had to make sure we came up and made our tackles and for the most part we did. But they were able to get outside of us a couple of times and that was the game right there.”
The losing Earl Marriott had endured over so much of the season was not easily accepted by its players, and Talon McMullin spoke for his entire team on what Wednesday’s title win meant.
“We got smoked in Quad A, we got beat by 20 points and we had to drop down (to Triple A),” he began. “We don’t like losing and we took that into this game… maybe not in the first half, but in the second. Taking those beat downs made us better.”
Tsawwassen’s South Delta Sun Devils were set to clash with Langley’s R.. Mountain Eagles on Thursday in the Fraser Valley-s third-fourth game.
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