ABBOTSFORD — Given both the quality of the opposition and the height of the occasion, it was a moment that served as a very pronounced reason why the Shawnigan Lake Stags are the closest thing B.C. high school sports has ever seen to a sure thing.
A perfectly delivered ball finds inside centre Evan Norris in full flight, a hip-shaking feign serves as a prelude to a dynamic, tackle-breaking burst, and from there, time stands still on a 40-metre run to goal.
It was the artistic highlight of the Stags’ eventual 47-15 B.C. Quad A championship final win over Vancouver’s St. George’s Saints at Rotary Stadium, one which gave the Vancouver Island boarding school its eighth top-tiered provincial title in the past 10 years, including the past three in a row.
But more than that, it was the reminder that a decade of near-total domination has built a base of strength and skill in which those kinds of breathtaking plays can happen at any moment and against others of lesser skill than the Saints, so often do.
“He is a very athletic kid,” said Stags’ head coach Tim Murdy of Norris. “He has a bright future and he’ll go on to play for Canada. But a lot of other things have to happen first for him to have that kind of time and space and as a rugby purist, when I watch that kind of play develop, I am most happy with the entire process.”
And while not every play the Stags make is suitable for framing, Shawnigan Lake just continues to do all the little things at a level at which the rest of the province is still trying to achieve.
Sometimes they look so good, you just want to say they win because they’re physically stronger than everybody else.
“That’s not too simplistic to say,” agreed St. George’s head of rugby Mike Stiles after the loss, one which comes a season after the Saints dropped a 12-8 nail-biter to the Stags in the 2016 final. “They are very strong. They overpower other teams. It’s not that they are doing anything special, but they do the right things, the simple things, correctly. And player for player they are stronger than any team they played in this tournament.”
Shawnigan opened the scoring in the ninth minute when No. 8 Dean Mason, in a steal against the head, took possession of the ball following a maul near the Saints’ goal line and quickly staked his team to a 5-0 lead.
Winger Jack Shaw and scrum half Carter Miller each added tries converted by Jonny Hodkins for a 19-3 lead.
The Norris try, followed by Mason’s second try of the half off a great pass from outside centre Sam Ibbotson, made it 33-3 in the 28th minute.
Mason and fullback Thomas Fyfe added second half tries in the win.
St. George’s points came on tries by scrum half Connor Jaques and hooker Jose Perez, as well a penalty and convert from kicker Jack Scher.
Last season’s close call and perhaps even St. George’s 15-12 win over the Stags in the 2104 final, created a sense of purpose in Shawnigan Lake that built over the last 365 days.
“A lot of our boys played in that game last year so they experienced that kind of pressure,” said Murdy. “We have total respect for the St. George’s program and we know they will show up and play. We always expect a battle.”
Stiles says that preparation will begin anew with renewed purpose.
“We know they are strong, but we will never back down and we are always going to fight,” he said.
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