Welcome to Day 2 from the 2019 B.C. boys high school rugby championships at Abbotsford’s Rotary Stadium.
Here are reports from all six semifinals staged at three different tiers.
ROBERT BATEMAN 16 YALE 15
Nathan Sagert had an important number in his head.
“It was 20,” as in 20 points, the head coach of the Robert Bateman Timberwolves said. “I thought if we could keep Yale under 20 points, then we’d have a chance to win.”
In the all-Abby derby which doubled as a AAA Tier 1 semifinal clash, the Wolves put together a scheme and then proceeded to carry it out, topping a red-hot Lions squad behind the offensive efficiency of its dead-eye kicking scrum-half Sam Davenport.
The Simon Fraser Clan football recruit was clinical when he had to be, kicking a convert on the Wolves’ game-opening try by Aidan Clayton-Davidson, then later kicking three penalties.
From a team perspective, however, there was no mistaking Bateman’s plan to disrupt Yale and its bevy of speedy backs.
“I think it was just wining the breakdown and containing their loose forwards,” said Sagert. “Our forwards worked hard to counter that and take that away. We bent but we didn’t break and we worked well together.”
Clayton-Davidson’s game-opening try was converted by Davenport for a 7-0 lead.
Yale’s Tayton Geinger crossed the line to pull the Lions to within 7-5, but then Yale made it 10-7 when Rowan Bridger exploded on a 40-metre run, spinning the ball wide to Jacky Kuang for the score.
Davenport, square to the posts, later kicked the ball through from 30-metres to knot the game 10-10 at break.
Davenport’s consecutive penalty kicks made it 16-10 before the Lions were able to add a try with 6:43 remaining off a pick from a ruck to pull within one, missing on a potential game-winning convert.
Sagert was proud of the way that Bateman’s multi-sport ethos was on such display Thursday, especially the co-operation between the school’s football and rugby programs.
“We utilize every athlete we have at Bateman,” said Sagert. “So it is a great to see a guy like Sam Davenport, a guy who is going to play football at SFU next season, out here playing rugby for us.
“Sam throws in on our line-outs, he kicks converts and he’s our scrum half,” continued Sagert, “so every breakdown on offence starts with him. Today, he was our MVP.”
EARL MARRIOTT 17 SOUTH DELTA 5
Fast and flashy, yes, but as the post-season has progressed, Surrey’s Earl Marriott Mariners are also passing a test of mettle.
“Our guys are just getting better and better at the physicality that we are facing,” Mariners head coach Adam Roberts said after his team beat the defending B.C. champion Sun Devils to earn a spot in Saturday’s B.C. title match. “We are one of the smaller teams in the draw, but our guys are starting to do the little things to shut down teams. It’s been quite nice to watch. We just have to keep our foot on the gas.”
That final stop of the journey comes 3 p.m. Saturday when the Mariners face Abbotsford’s Robert Bateman Timberwolves in the championship final.
On Thursday, after some back-and-forth play to open the contest, Marriott were first on a the board at 7-0 behind No. 8 Sam LaRoue’s try, converted by Takoda McMullin.
EMS’ Takoda McMullin made it 12-0 with 9:34 left in the half, and it looked as though the Mariners were about to go on a late run.
South Delta, however, got a highlight reel try from Evan Patterson, the uber-athletic football/rugby standout who chip-kicked the ball over a wall of Marriott players, then ran on to it and juked his way 40 metres down field for the score.
“That was a dandy of a try,” gushed Roberts.
In the second half, the lone scoring play came with 1:24 remaining when Talon McMullin took the ball hard through the gap from 35 metres to cross the line.
“They hung around really well,” said Roberts of South Delta. “We had so much pressure and so much territory and we just couldn’t crack them. Our defence was staunch but we just couldn’t get around them.”
Looking ahead to Saturday’s final, both teams are full of respect for each other.
“Bateman was very physical at the point of contact today,” said Roberts. “They had a ton of guys who just buried into rucks. “We have to do a good job of getting the ball away from their big, physical guys.”
Added Bateman head coach Sagert: “The key for us is we have to work together as a team and basically do all the little things right. We have to leave it all on the field.”
WEST VANCOUVER 36 NANAIMO DISTRCT 11
Highlanders head coach Paul Welsh was in the mood for a little levity Thursday evening, and what coach wouldn’t be after watching his team earn a spot in Saturday’s B.C. finals against the Lord Byng Grey Ghosts.
“We took the bus out from West Vancouver and we got stuck in traffic, so we got a little late,” Welsh said of arriving a little too close to a 6 p.m. provincial semifinal against the Nanaimo District Islanders. “Some teams say they left their game on the bus, but we scored three tries in the first 15 minutes. It was a great start, a fast start.”
And one which carried the Highlanders to a comfortable win.
Fullback Ben Welsh set the tone with two first-half tries while also kicking three converts on the day.
Wideside flanker Harry Waddell, West Van’s top player on the day, also scored two tries while adding great work at the breakdown.
Simon Li in the second row, and winger Aidan Izadi also crossed the line.
Keys against Byng?
“We have to watch their No. 10 Landon (Clironomos),” said Welsh. “He is a great player. We have to make our tackles in midfield and we have to be mistake free. If we can do that, our talent matches up.”
LORD BYNG 23 ABBOTSFORD 19
Landon Clironomos and the Lord Byng Grey Ghosts will try and accomplish something the school’s rugby program has been chasing this entire century.
One of Vancouver’s most traditional high school rugby institutions, the Grey Ghosts put together a plucky 23-19 win over the Abbotsford Panthers on Thursday to earn a berth in Saturday’s B.C. championship final.
It’s the Grey Ghosts first trip to the final since 2000, and in a game in which they will arch-rival West Vancouver, a chance to win their first title since 1999, when current co-coach Mike Mallette guided the team along with Spence McTavish.
The contest featured great team play from the entire Ghosts squad, yet senior fly half Landon Clironomos put a unique brand on the victory by scoring all 23 of the team’s points with two tries, two converts and three penalties.
Ultimately it was just enough to stave off the Panthers from making a late charge as the Grey Ghosts played a man down over the final five minutes following a yellow card issued to Clironomos for a high tackle.
Abbotsford took a commanding 14-3 lead at half but then Clironomos scored a pair of converted tries for a 17-14 lead.
Abbotsford added a try to re-gain the lead at 19-17, however Clironomos booted back-to-back penalty kicks to make the uprising complete.
Byng’s Grade 11 blindside flanker Nico Calindros was huge in the dying minutes.
After Clironomos’ first penalty kick had put Byng up 20-19, a penalty had allowed Abbotsford to work the ball to the Grey Ghosts’ goal line.
Calindros delivered a jarring hit and his team regained possession, ultimately setting the stage for Clironomos’ insurance kick.
The game also marked the full-match return of senior Seth Hastings, who tore his meniscus during the basketball season.
“This was only his fourth game back and his first full game,” said Byng co-coach Ian MacPhee
BYRNE CREEK 19 D.W. POPPY 18
The expansionists are B.C. title finalists.
Chidubem Nkoloagu made a game-defining break after taking a pass from teammate Ashdy Omar, then shed two tackles and scored between the posts, setting the stage for a dramatic convert by Darius Morrison on Thursday, as Burnaby’s No . 4 Byrne Creek Bulldogs upset the top-seeded D.W. Poppy RedHawks.
A converted try with three minutes remaining to cap off a B.C. championship semifinal win seemed highly unlikely for the Bulldogs, who came together as a first-year program under head coach Moreno Stefanon earlier this spring.
“I think the biggest thing is to be able to get the mindset right,” Stefanon said post-match. “If the kids come and want to learn, want to get better and want to be exposed to a higher level, that is when they will grow exponentially.”
For Stefanon, it is about every facet of learning, right down to the smallest areas of discipline.
For example, after the team’s quarterfinal win over South Kamloops on Wednesday he could be overheard telling his players how important it was that they properly folded their jersies.
This was after the first playoff win in program history, and all the players were listening.
“I was talking to a friend the other day and you might say that you have those days where you wonder why you became a teacher,” Stefanon says with a smile. “And then you have days like today.”
The Redhawks were able to get the offense going in the first 10 minutes.
Scoring in the first minutes was winger Ty Yakabuski off of a set kick pass from fly-half Henry Brown. Seven minutes later, off of a booming 60-metre clearing kick from Henry Brown and a phenomenal downfield run by outside centre George Brown, the latter was able to pick up the ball and score to pull the Redhawks ahead 10-0. Henry Brown’s penalty goal just before halftime extended the Redhawks’ lead to 13-7.
The Bryne Creek Bulldogs kept up their relentess attack and defence and were awarded with a 50m run for their first try. Henry Brown was bang on with a penalty goal to pull the Redhawks ahead 13-7 at half.
Henry Brown later added a second-half try to put the Langley side on top 18-12, setting the stage for the comeback.
SIR CHARLES TUPPER 29 L.V. ROGERS 17
East Van’s Tigers are destined for their best-ever senior varsity finish after topping their Nelson foes en route to a spot in Saturday’s 1 p.m. final.
Mitchell Morgan scored four tries, while Kiya Vivier-Miller added a penalty and three converts as Tupper topped Nelson’s L.V. Rogers Bombers.
“It’s going to be our first time playing for a B.C. championship,” said Tupper co-coach Joe Lee, whose charges are set to face Burnaby’s expansion Byrne Creek Bulldogs in the title match. “This season is the one where we’ve had the most injuries ever and we’ve used the tape we’ve ever used,” said Lee, whose pride was bursting after the win. “It’s been a case of next man up, just like it was today, but we’ll keep moving (the players) around and stepping up.”
The formula and the mindset was simple but effective against a talented Bombers’ squad.
“Our forwards did well going forward with the ball and sucking in three or four defenders,” said Lee whose team nursed a 10-7 halftime lead. “Then we won rucks and got good, clean ball for our backs.”
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