VANCOUVER — If Ethan Lucke had picked another sport to make his specialty, you could quite easily picture him suiting up in any number of different roles.
Perhaps anchoring a defensive backfield in football as a strong safety?
Certainly crouching into the blocks awaiting the starter’s pistol in the 100-metre sprint.
And definitely using that foot speed and anticipation with a glove on his catching hand in centre field.
Alas, football, track and baseball did not end up winning Lucke’s heart.
Rugby did, and on Saturday, as one piece of a total team effort that saw West Vancouver’s Collingwood Cavaliers beat Brentwood College 45-31 for the B.C. Double A Tier 1 provincial title, the easiest way to define how speed set the Cavs apart from the rest of their competition this season was to start with the effort of the team’s Grade 12 back.
On two occasions, just when his team needed him most, Lucke shot into the passing lanes and twice turned intercepted balls into key tries as Collingwood won its first B.C. title since 2013, and the eighth in its program’s storied history.
“This is probably the fastest back three we’ve had,” said Collingwood co-coach Dave Speirs, the Cavs’ longtime rugby guru who midway through the tournament this week had left his team to be inducted along with the rest of the 1991 Canadian World Cup team, into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.
Speirs was speaking about Lucke, who back in April scored three tries, including one off an interception, in Collingwood’s 34-5 Stadium Series win over Brentwood College, as well as Cole Young and Adam Lewis.
“But the great thing about this team is that we have so many different kinds of weapons. That’s what makes it so great.”
Yet speed was clearly what separated the Cavs from the rest of a AA Tier 1 pack who in recent years, seemed to have the Cavs’ number just when it mattered most.
Collingwood lost to Brentwood in the 2017 semifinals, to Victoria’s St.Michaels University School in the 2016 final, to SMUS in the 2015 semifinals and to West Vancouver’s Rockridge Ravens in the 2014 finals. Coming close just wasn’t cutting it.
So on Saturday, knowing the task of topping Brentwood for a second time this season would be extremely tough, Collingwood came out with focus and aggression.
Cam Bruk and Duncan Bustos scored back-to-back tries to put the Cavs ahead 12-0.
Brentwood College rallied with a pair of tries of their own,including the second by Jose de Grigorio to knot the score 12-12.
Lucke was able to put a damper on Brentwood’s building momentum when he scored his first try off an interception for a 19-12 lead.
“We knew they were a good team and we had scored a couple of lucky tries against them in the first game,” said Lucke. “So we trained hard all year to try to get everything perfect. I started playing rugby in Grade 4 at Collingwood, and it’s all led up to this.”
Yet Brentwood, last season’s silver medalists, got a converted try from Sion Griffiths to regain the lead at 19-17.
The Cavaliers, however, found their pace just before the half and proceeded to turn the game on its ear.
A try from Joey Ficocelli just before the half gave Collingwood a 24-19 lead at the break.
The West Vancouverites then opened the second half on fire, Lucke keying the run with his second interception try of the game.
By the time the dust had cleared, after successive tries by Bruk and Linus Hartner, Collingwood led 45-19.
Brentwood College added two more tries in the late going but the Cavs’ 28-point run dug too deep a hole for any thoughts of a rally. Bustos was huge on the day, booting successful converts on the team’s final five tries of the day.
The Cavs were in fine hands under the leadership of veteran co-coach Tom Larisch when Speirs left to attend his Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
And with a long series of daily drives ahead of them from West Vancouver to Abbotsford, the team elected to stay in a local hotel for the duration of the tournament.
“But we didn’t have to worry about them being in the hotel,” smiled Speirs. “They motivate themselves and they have a great captain in Matt Frost. This was a business trip. It had to be, because Brentwood is an amazing team and to win it, we knew we had to be great.”
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