ABBOTSFORD — Surrey’s Earl Marriott Mariners are about as expert a source as you’re apt to find on preparing for the Yale Lions within the high-stakes atmosphere of a B.C. high school rugby post-season.
Yet even after a solid decade of big-game moments between the two programs, Mariners’ longtime head coach Adam Roberts admits that the 2019 version of the Abbotsford powerhouse his team will face in this coming Wednesday’s Fraser Valley Triple A Tier 1 championship match has a few more bells and whistles to contend with.
“It’s one of those things where I think we’ve faced each other in the Fraser Valley final like seven times in the last 10 years, so we know each others programs so well,” Roberts said Saturday morning, reflecting on Thursday’s two semifinal scores which have created the title tilt at Rotary Stadium.
“They are always a very tough and physical team,” added Roberts’ whose No. 3-ranked Mariners beat Langley’s visiting and No. 8-ranked R.E. Mountain Eagles 41-5 in its Final Four clash. “But this year I hear that have a lot more speed out wide. We’ll see how it all stacks up because we also have a lot of speed on the outside. I am really excited to see how our boys will stack up physically.”
For their part, Yale indeed lived up to the reports as it pertained to their pace.
Rowan Bridger and Tayton Geinger each sped across the try line on multiple occasions Thursday at the No. 7-ranked Lions’ own Abbotsford school ground, at one stage scoring 33 straight points aspart of a 42-17 win over the defending B.C. champion and No. 1-ranked South Delta Sun Devils.
It was match featuring two undefeated teams, but perhaps more than that, it was a rematch of last season’s Fraser Valley semifinal which was won by South Delta.
“Same game, same place, so our boys were pretty pumped and looking for a little revenge,” admitted Yale head coach Doug Primrose.
“I thought our thought our pack played well and matched them up front,” continued Primrose, whose team surrendered a game-opening penalty to South Delta ace Evan Paterson, but then found plenty of answers with a series of big breaks, leading 15-3 at halftime and very quickly, 33-3 after feasting off numerous Sun Devils’ turnovers early in the second half.
“They are a big, strong team,” added Primrose. “South Delta always is. But we were able to win the breakdown and provide the ball out to the backs and we’ve got a lot of speedy backs on this team and they were all able to finish for us.”
Keeping tally of the offensive onslaught was not easy, yet the sheet included additional tries from Jackey Kunag, Brayden Stewart and Daygen Guidone.
South Delta’s Paterson and Ethan Troniak added tries late in the game with the match well out of reach.
Sun Devils’ head coach Spencer Baines, whose team must now regain its health and rebound against a very tough Mountain team in next week’s third-fourth match if his team to carry any momentum into provincials, remained hopeful his team would use the loss in the most constructive way possible.
“Today was a total team effort,” said Baines. “Like we just said to our guys, this will be a positive thing for us, because we hadn’t faced a defeat and many games have not pushed us to where we need to be. So you only get better by playing games like this.”
Earl Marriott’s Roberts can certainly attest to Baines’ comments.
The Mariners once again elected to test their mettle within the five-team Quad-A Premier League this season, one which pares down to four for the provincial tournament.
As the fifth-place team, Earl Marriott went winless in the Premier League, yet what South Delta faced Thursday against Yale is what Earl Marriott faced the entire season against the likes of St. George’s, Oak Bay, Carson Graham and Shawnigan Lake.
And yes, it’s helped the Mariners get ready for the late-season life at Triple A.
“We had a couple of tight, tough losses against Carson Graham and Oak Bay, and then the wheels kind of fell off against St. George’s and Shawnigan because we couldn’t really match their physicality,” said Roberts. “But it’s been good for our kids. A lot of programs might shy away from the stiffer competition but our players have been resilient. It’s very tough to get beatem every time and still bring a positive mind frame and still be ready to get back to work, but you could see what they had learned from those games against Mountain because our defence was very staunch.”
Talon McMullin and Takoda McMullin each scored a pair of tries for the winners, while Sam Laroue, Jackson Croze and Keegan Aves added one each. Takoda McMullin booted three converts.
Yale’s Primrose, speaking to what he saw against South Delta, is hopeful that speed will continue to translate and help his team make a healthy post-season run.
“Right through our whole back line and even our back row, we’ve got a lot of pace on this team and they are getting more and more confident with that,” Primrose said. “When they see the gaps, they tend to just shoot through and keep going and no one can catch them. We have a lot of Grade 11s on that back line which is nice, and those guys are stepping up big.”
(Look for the remainder of reports from a critical week of B.C. boys high school rugby in Varsity Letters’ weekly report available Monday)
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