ABBOTSFORD — We have gone final here from Day 1 of the 2019 B.C. boys high school rugby championships from Rotary Stadium.
Varsity Letters presents game reports and photos from all five tiers of competition staged today. Enjoy and please come back throughout the week as the final three days of the tourney unfold Thursday through Saturday.
ST. GEORGE’S 45 CARSON GRAHAM 12
ABBOTSFORD — The St. George’s Saints looked a little wobbly off the hop Wednesday, but once they gained stride, they looked every bit a ready to challenge for B.C. Quad title come 5:45 p.m. Friday here at Rotary Stadium.
After watching Shawnigan Lake rally past Oak Bay to fill the tier’s first slot in the title game, Saints promptly gave up a game-opening try to Carson Graham’s Ethan Smith just 29 seconds into their semifinal match.
Six straight Saints’ tries, however, pushed the Vancouver powerhouse to a 38-5 lead en route to a 45-12 victory.
“It was decisive but only after 15 minutes,” said Saints’ head coach Mike Stiles. “Carson Graham hit us hard and scored first, but I trust our guys not to lose their composure when they are down.”
Ethan Jacques opened the scoring for Saints, Max Brittingham added the first of two tries on the game, while Liam Cooper, Tate Litherland and and Matteo Mitchell were among the others to cross the line for the winners.
Smith’s second try of the game with 9:39 remaining was converted and had pulled North Vancouver’s Eagles to within 38-12.
Of course the prospect of playing for a B.C. title on a day’s rest is daunting.
Stiles says careful planning will go into insuring his team is feeling its most refreshed.
“We’re going to be taking a lot of time in the next day or so to make sure we stay stretched, and then just recover physically and mentally. We’re pretty banged up but I am sure Shawnigan is, too.”
SHAWNIGAN LAKE 41 OAK BAY 26
ABBOTSFORD — Ask Ciaran Breen to describe the perfect shade of victory, and he cast an eye to overhead to the mostly sunny skies on a Wednesday afternoon at Rotary Stadium.
“It was all about staying composed, so I knew I had to keep a blue head,” the Shawnigan Lake Stags’ captain said about the fact that his team trailed the defending B.C. champion Oak Bay Barbarians of Victoria by 26-17 in the first of two Quad-A semifinals here Wednesday on the opening day of the B.C. boys high school championships.
A blue head?
“There’s hot heads, and then there’s blue heads,” explained Breen, whose response of back-to-back tries were back-breakers to the Barbs and led the Stags to an eventual 41-26 win. “So I knew that I just had to keep it cool. Things worked out. Opportunities presented themselves and I gave it my all.”
Those two tries, along with two others by teammate Graham Norris helped the Stags close the game on a 24-0 run.
Breen had also scored a first half try while Mohamen Glendawli added another five-pointer. Jamin Hodgkins was also dynamic with the ball, and with his toe as he kicked a penalty and three converts.
“It’s an honour to play against those guys at this level,” Breen said of Oak Bay. “We have built a culture and it showed today and I am very happy with the way the guys bounced back. It was a pure show of character and really who we are.”
Jack Carson was spectacular for the Barbs.
Oak Bay’s No. 9 kicked three penalties and a convert on the day while also breaking free to flip the field on numerous occasions.
Barbarians’ No. 8 Henry Down scored a pair of tries while Zach Moncton added another in a game Shawnigan Lake led 17-16 at halftime.
It’s going to be all-Abbotsford semifinal clash on one half of the draw Thursday (2 p.m.) after the No. 2 Yale Lions and No. 6 Robert Bateman Timberwolves each won quarterfinal clashes Wednesday.
“It’s nice to have two Abbotsford teams competing in the semifinals,” remarked Lions’ head coach Doug Primrose after Yale beat Victoria’s Claremont Spartans 36-17, while Bateman rallied to upset the No. 3 R.E. Mountain Eagles of Langley 19-12.
“The kids on these teams are all friends, and they play club together, so hopefully we get a good crowd out here in Abbotsford to support both teams.”
When the two teams met near the end of April, Yale came away 26-12 victors.
“They are a good team and we knew that coming in,” said Primrose of Claremont. “They were ranked No. 7 but everyone is is good once you get to the top eight. We just wanted to get the ball to our backs, to see if we could find some space and then let our speedsters go. We did pretty good. We didn’t play our top game but they made it tough for us.”
In Bateman’s case, they won the battle at the breakdown and were solid on defence, avenging a loss to the Eagles three weeks ago.
George Piper, Jordan Fayent and Phoenix Moller all scored tries for the winners with Sam Davenport two-for-three on conversions.
James Thiel was clutch at 10 with his decision making and kicking opening up space for the forwards and backs.
As well, the tight five of Bateman — George Piper, Had Obeid, Chris Martin, Josh Olafson and Connor Dueck — controlled the breakdown, allowing the Bateman backs to find space.”
For his part, Primrose admitted his team came away with knocks that could impact his lineup Thursday, but added “Our superstars need to show up.”
On the other side of the draw:
Surrey’s Earl Marriott Mariners got an early push but rediscovered the DNA which carried them to the Fraser Valley championship in a 26-7 win over North Vancouver’s Handsworth Royals.
“I think Handsworth went in under-ranked,” said Marriott head coach Adam Roberts of the 1 vs. 8 clash. “They were one of the better teams we played this year.. very physical and they gave us fits. But we were resilient and we turned the tide.”
Twins Takoda and Talon McMullin each scored a try for the winners while Keegan Aves and Simon Radcliffe also crossed the try line.
The Mariners will face South Delta, which beat Kelowna in the final quarterfinal clash Wednesday
Tsawwassen’s Sun Devils didn’t look like a team at the top of its game en route to a fourth-place finish at the Fraser Valley championships.
Yet as he gathered his team following a 29-14 provincial quarterfinals win over the Owls, head coach Spencer Baines congratulated his players on giving their best performance of the season.
“They looked great and the things we needed to do they executed,” a proud Baines said. “Everything was cleaned up, and it is good to be healthy again.”
It was hard not to speak about Evan Paterson, whose dynamic presence was impossible to miss throughout.
“He’s Prime Time Paterson because in the big games he just lights up,” said Baines. “He’s got great vision, he put a few kicks in behind when they pinched up on him, and his athleticism is just ridiculous.”
Niall Cummins and Andrew Kraft, the latter a physical presence returning from injury, were other key cogs in Wednesday’s win.
The West Vancouver Highlanders and Lord Byng Grey Ghosts did their best this season to battle for provincial tournament berths at Tier 1.
While the two programs fell short, their status as the No. 1 and 2 seeds respectively in the Tier 2 B.C. quarterfinal field which convened on Wednesday was impossible to miss.
On one side of the draw, West Vancouver was a 43-0 winner over No. 8 Belmont of Victoria.
On the other, Lord Byng toppled No. 7 G.P. Vanier of Courtenay 64-18, and will face the Abbotsford Panthers in a 2 p.m. semifinal on Thursday.
The Panthers defeated Cowichan 23-19.
Meanwhile, the Highlanders were set to meet the winner of No. 4 Nanaimo District and No. 5 R.A. McMath in a 6 p.m. semifinal Thursday.
Victoria’s St. Michaels University School Blue Jags resembled that old jalopy which seems ready at any moment to stall, yet somehow finds a way to keep on chugging.
“We were on fumes today,” longtime SMUS rugby guru Ian Hyde-Lay said Wednesday afternoon as his Jags somehow managed to hold off Brentwood College 45-35 in the second of two AA Tier 1 Final Four clashes.
“We had four or five kids on the back line playing positions they’d never played in their lives, and while they made some mistakes, they kept it together. It’s typical, though, that when you’re nursing a lead, it takes forever to finish a game.”
The Jags will clash with the unquestioned No. 1 Collingwood Cavaliers of West Vancouver in Friday’s 4:15 p.m. title tilt.
The Cavs opened their day with a 39-14 win over its crosstown rivals, the Rockridge Ravens.
SMUS got solid performances from Will Kinahan and Max Nishima, and a cache of tries from the likes of Jamie Scott, Andres Vega Perez, Josh Mao and Elvis Duru.
“I’d say we were a bit fortunate today,” continued Hyde-Lay. “We had good patches but the reason (Brentwood) gets back into games is because they’re good.
“I just hope we’re in some kind of decent physical shape come Friday because Collingwood is the real deal.”
Kiya Vivier-Miller scored a pair of tries and booted a pair of converts as East Vancouver’s Sir Charles Tupper Tigers topped North Vancouver’s Windsor Dukes 29-12 in a quarterfinal clash Wednesday at Rotary Stadium.
“The key was establishing good forward ball,” said Tupper head coach Joe Lee. “This one was tight at the half (10-7 Tupper) but once that happened we were able to use our speed in the backs to ice the game.”
The victory propels the Tigers into 4 p.m. Thursday semifinal against Nelson’s L.V. Rogers Bombers.
L.V. Rogers were 41-15 winners of Victoria’s Glenlyon Norfolk Gryphons in another quarterfinal.
“Their back row is very strong and fast, and they like to run,” said Lee. “Their inside centre is a very complete player so we will try and establish our forwards against them and use our outside speed to try and score some tries.”
On the other side of the draw Wednesday, No. 1 D.W. Poppy will face the first-year Byrne Creek Bulldogs of Burnaby.
Poppy toppled the No. 8 Alberni District Armada 42-14, whileNo. 4 Byrne Creek beat No, 5 South Kamloops 28-22.
“It’s really cool that we’re goint to be playing for a medal,” Byrne head coach Moreno Stefanon said after the win.”The kids are pumped.”
In a season of first, including first-ever game, and first-ever win, their first-ever playoff win was special.
Francesco Tosato scored three tries, Chidubem Nkoloagu added another and Darius Morrison converted all four.
“The big thing is, we’ve talked about is progression and persepctive,” Stefanon said afterwards. “We almost beat Tupper but we lost on the last play because we couldn’t close out the job. Today we got the job done.”
St. George’s Saints head coach John Mergui was not afraid to admit that he was a little concerned about potential chemistry issues with his team heading into a provincial semifinal clash with the rival Shawnigan Lake Stags.
“Half of the team has been camping the last two weeks and some of those guys spent their first night in two weeks in a real bed at the hotel last night,” Mergui said of a canoe trip to the Tofino area.
Call it a breath of fresh air, or call it good, old-fashioned cross training.
Whatever the case, St. George’s came together with its full side and came away 36-19 winners over the Stags.
“I was worried that we couldn’t get here,” continued Mergui, “but the depth of the team, with the way the Grade 9s played at Kelowna (in the quarterfinals last week) and then the way they had beaten Carson Graham, they were terrific.”
The Saints will move on to face Victoria’s St. Michaels University School Blue Jags in Friday’s 2:15 p.m. final.
SMUS topped West Vancouver’s Rockridge Ravens 21-17 in the first semifinal of the day.
Although Saints have beaten SMUS this season, Mergui knows his team will get a battle.
“They are very physical at prop, centre and 13 and we take them very seriously,” Mergui said. “Playing a team in a final is a different game and the hardest thing to do is beat a good team twice.”
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