Abby rugby men upset Bayside

The Abbotsford Rugby Football Club's elite men's side is quickly coming of age. That much was crystal clear in the wake of a 33-19 road victory over previously undefeated Bayside at South Surrey Athletic Park on Saturday.

Chris Gilding (right) and the Abbotsford Rugby Football Club elite men’s team is in the running for a Premiership berth.

The Abbotsford Rugby Football Club’s elite men’s side is quickly coming of age.

That much was crystal clear in the wake of a 33-19 road victory over previously undefeated Bayside at South Surrey Athletic Park on Saturday.

The locals raced out to a quick 19-0 lead and cruised from there, simultaneously boosting their chances in the hunt for a berth in the CDI Premiership in the spring.

The top two teams from the Lower Mainland Elite Spray League in the fall earn an automatic promotion, while No. 3 through No. 5 play off with the Velox Valhallians of Victoria for the final berth. At 3-1, Abbotsford is currently in third place.

“The whole club has kind of turned over, and we have lots of talented, talented youth,” head coach Jason Young enthused. “For me as a coach, it’s exciting. They’re starting to mature, and they’ve really bought into the systems.”

The ARFC’s youth movement on the men’s side has been taking shape over the past couple of seasons. While veterans like former Canadian international Ryan McWhinney are still making an impact, it’s the presence of the youngsters that characterize the elite men’s squad.

Nine players on Young’s roster are 20 years old or younger, including baby-faced Patrick Shields. At 18, Shields is the team’s youngest player, but he already has eight tries in four games.

Kurtis Appeldoorn, who has represented Canada at age-class world championships the past two years, and Lucas de Beer, a former Yale Secondary standout who has made a comeback from a serious concussion, are among the other impactful youth on the Abby roster.

“We have lots of potential to score from anywhere,” Young noted. “We’ve got tons of speed, and the guys are fit. They’ve been training really hard, and I’ve been really happy with their performance.”

IN BRIEF:

• The Abbotsford women’s squad, the defending provincial Div. 1 champs, beat the Brit Lions 32-19 on Saturday behind two tries from Meagan Chambers and two from Madi Blakeburn.

• The other Abby men’s sides didn’t fare as well as the elite squad. The Div. 1 men fell 34-14 to Bayside, while the Div. 3 team lost 24-0 to Surrey.

• The ARFC hosts its 35th annual Gobbler Tournament over the Thanksgiving weekend. The event will feature 12 men’s teams on and eight women’s teams from B.C., Alberta and Washington. Games begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

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