ABBOTSFORD — Ian Hyde-Lay, the veteran high school rugby coach, stood by himself at a corner of the pitch here at Rotary Stadium.
His St. Michaels University School Blue Jags had just made a quick dash off the field following their pre-match warm-up when Hyde-Lay pronounced “it’s hard to beat a good team three times in one season.”
It’s also hard to win three straight provincial championships, but Victoria’s Blue Jags were able to tick off both boxes Saturday, its comprehensive 24-14 win over arch-rival Brentwood College completing a double trifecta over a week in which the school’s entire community mourned the passing of Simon Ibell, an alum who managed not only the basketball teams at the school in the mid-1990s but later at the University of Victoria and with the Canadian national team.
“I thought for 42 (of the 60 minutes), that is the best we have played this season,” said Hyde-Lay, whose team wore t-shirts printed in tribute to Ibell, who passed at the age of 39 of a rare genetic condition known as Hunter Syndrome. “Both sides of the ball we had lots of pressure, great tackling, we were clinical and let’s face it, Quinn Ngawati is a force.”
The Jags’ senior inside centre was devastatingly efficient, scoring a pair of first-half tries and converting both to put SMUS ahead 14-0 at the half.
In the second half, Ngawati booted a penalty for a 17-0 advantage, and SMUS continued to roll, as outside centre Felix Butterfield spun a perfect ball to hard-charging winger Denis Seigrist who went in to goal.
Ngawati’s convert made it 24-0.
Brentwood, which had lost the previous two encounters against their Lower Island foes, including a heartbreaker in the Vancouver Island championship final, came back with two late tries.
Kieran Marrett Hitch and Mide Olabatvson scored the two tries, both converted by Santiago Guadarrama, with the final score coming on the last play of the contest.
“I watched the first two games on video and we didn’t play with much aggression,” said Hyde-Lay who returned to B.C. Friday evening after attending memorial services for Ibell back in Ontario. “Today, we did.
“In a funny, funny way, this was the most decisive of the three wins, which I never would have expected. It’s been an emotional week at our school this week with Simon.”
Ngawati, who is off to Edmonton with the Canadian Under 20 team this coming week, said there was a clear sense of purpose this week.
“Simon Ibell was someone super-prominent in the life of coach, and he was known to everyone throughout the school,” said Ngawati. “We did this for our families, our school and our teammates, but on the bigger side, we did it for Simon. A quote we were given this week really moved me and it was ‘Mountains are put in front of us so we can move them.’”
Hyde-Lay took huge pride in the school’s third straight BC title.
“One school (Shawnigan Lake at Quad A) is clearly superior but amongst the rest, to win three times, you have to be doing some things right to be successful,” he said.
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