Graeme Neill-Klein of the Collingwood Cavaliers powers his way through the heart of the Rockridge Ravens' defence in Thursday's Lower Mainland New Zealand Shield AA final at Brockton Oval. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of 2019. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Rugby

West Van derby for AA New Zealand Shield goes Cavaliers’ way, but B.C. draw pits Collingwood and Rockridge yet again

VANCOUVER — Once, twice, three times a rivalry. 

And we mean three times in the span of three weeks!

That’s how many times the Collingwood Cavaliers and the Rockridge Ravens will have faced each other when the two West Vancouver teams clash in an opening-round semifinal at the 2019 B.C. senior boys Double A Tier 1 rugby championships beginning Wednesday in Abbotsford.

On Thursday at Stanley Park’s breathtaking Brockton Oval spread, a much more organized Rockridge defence held the fort for longer stretches than during its 50-21 Hatch Shield loss May 9 to the defending B.C. champ Cavs, yet still came out on the short end of a 44-15 loss to Collingwood in the Lower Mainland’s New Zealand Shield final.

By Thursday evening, Collingwood had earned its pre-tourney No. 1 seed, and when Rockridge got the No. 4 seed, they instantly became combatants once more, this time in the provincial draw.

The other semifinal match will pit No. 2 St. Michaels University School of Victoria against Mill Bay’s No. 3 Brentwood College.

Last season, Collingwood defeated Brentwood College 45-31 to win its first B.C. title since 2013.

Thursday’s New Zealand Shield win was its next logical step to repeating after completing a wire-to-wire regular season in which it never ceded the province’s top ranking.

And despite a 29-point win, Collingwood coach Tom Larisch said the tweaking would continue.

“I can tell you that the guys learned a lot about some small basics that we need to sharpen up for provincials,” said Larisch, now five years into his Cavaliers’ coaching partnership with longtime Collingwood coach David Speirs after having spent the previous 11 seasons at Carson Graham.

“But I am also happy to see all the development Rockridge has made over the past few weeks, and the fact that their program has come back up because it’s important for rugby that we continue to have this rivalry.”

The teams traded penalty kicks to open the game, with Collingwood’s Graeme Neill-Klein and Rockridge’s Sebastian Geddes each connecting.

The Cavs, however, put a nice run together into the second half, scoring five consecutive tries to lead 32-3.

Kirk Fuller scored a pair of tries and made a long run to set up Thomas Simon for another as Collingwood took a 20-3 halftime lead.

In the previous Hatch Shield game, Collingwood led 38-0 at the break.

Rockridge’s Lucas Okano (right) turns on the jets as he flies past Brockton Oval signage and the Rockridge Ravens during Thursday’s New Zealand Shield final in Stanley Park. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of 2019. All Rights Reserved)

Linus Hartner and Lucas Okano kept the run alive with tries to start the second half, before Sawyer Nicholson crossed the try line for Rockridge, a Geddes convert making it 32-10.

Simon with his second of the game and Shervin Etemadahari also scored tries for Collingwood, while Rockridge got another from Kris Kemp.

“We took some baby steps forward today but (Collingwood) is good,” acknowledged Rockridge head coach Perino Zambon. “I thought our guys might have gone into a bit of a shell after the last game, but they rebounded and gave us something to build on. I thought we were much better today.”

With the stakes sky high this coming week, Larisch says his team can’t rest on its laurels.

“Our mantra is to always improve,” he said. “Right now things are going well, but you’re only as good as your last game.”

Also on tap next week: The B.C. Double A Tier 2 championships, an eight-team affair.

Here’s a look at the seedings and opening-round quarterfinal matchups:

No. 1 D.W. Poppy vs. No. 8 Alberni District 

No. 2 Sir Charles Tupper vs. No. 7 Windsor

No. 3 L.V. Rogers vs. No. 6 Glenlyon Norfolk

No. 4 Byrne Creek vs. No. 5 South Kamloops

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