Travis Murray of the Yale Lions hauls down a Kelowna Owls ball carrier during the provincial AAA quarter-finals on Wednesday at Exhibition Park.

Travis Murray of the Yale Lions hauls down a Kelowna Owls ball carrier during the provincial AAA quarter-finals on Wednesday at Exhibition Park.

Lions punch Final Four ticket at rugby provincials, Bateman and Hansen fall in quarter-finals

The Yale Lions made a little bit of history with a gritty 18-3 victory over the Kelowna Owls in the AAA provincial quarter-finals.

The Yale Lions made a little bit of history with a gritty 18-3 victory over the Kelowna Owls in the quarter-finals of the B.C. high school boys rugby tournament on Wednesday at Exhibition Park.

The Lions are the first team to advance to the Final Four of the AAA tourney since 1995, when the Abbotsford Senior Panthers accomplished the feat.

The win also established a new high watermark for the Yale boys rugby program. Their previous best provincial finish had been sixth, which they achieved initially in 1988 when current head coach Doug Primrose was team captain, and matched in 2011.

“It’s a good feeling to win that and get in the top four,” enthused Primrose, whose team was coming off a 41-15 win over Lord Byng in Saturday’s first round. “We haven’t ever done that at Yale.”

Daniel Combs (2) and Jason Hignell notched tries for the Lions, and Daniel Davidson kicked a penalty.

But it was the Yaleans’ defence that won the day. They were stout throughout, most notably stymieing the Owls during a prolonged period of pressure deep in their half.

The No. 4-seeded Lions face a titanic test in Thursday’s semifinals, as they take on top-ranked St. George’s of Vancouver (6:30 p.m., Rotary Stadium).

“There’s no pressure on us – we’ve got nothing to lose,” Primrose noted with a grin. “We’ll go in there and play the best we can, and you never know what can happen.”

MARRIOTT 13, BATEMAN 12

The rubber match between the Robert Bateman Timberwolves and the Earl Marriott Mariners of South Surrey was an absolute epic.

The Fraser Valley rivals had split a pair of regular-season games, and the third clash between the two teams went down to the wire. Bateman, ranked No. 6 in AAA, built a 12-10 lead on the strength of tries from Jason Kim and Trenton Chard, and a convert from Gavin Rowell.

But the No. 3 Mariners spent the waning minutes buzzing near the T-Wolves’ goal line, and surged ahead in the final seconds on a drop goal.

It was a gut-wrenching result for Bateman, but coach Dave Chambers said he couldn’t have asked for much more from his crew.

“We’d asked the boys to put everything out there, and when they left the game not to have any excuses,” Chambers said. “The guys did that.

“I told them I didn’t see boys rugby today – I saw men’s rugby. It was outstanding, both sides. I’m very proud of our guys.

“Earl Marriott won with probably the hardest play to execute in rugby. That play has won World Cups, and it’s also lost championships because people have made mistakes. It’s not a lucky play – it’s a play where everything has to go right.”

Bateman moves on to face No. 7 West Vancouver in consolation action at 3 p.m. Thursday, and Chambers acknowledged that regrouping mentally after such a hard-fought loss will be quite a test for his side.

“It sounds corny, but we’ll talk about the celebration of the challenge,” he said. “You play rugby because you enjoy it, you play because it’s a challenge. We’ll get after it.”

COLLINGWOOD 41, HANSEN 17

In the wake of his team’s closer-than-the-score-indicated defeat to Collingwood in the AA quarter-finals, Rick Hansen Hurricanes coach Bo Sidhu offered an apt summary.

“I’m proud of the boys – they worked really, really hard,” Sidhu began. “But you could tell, in the pressure situations, they’re a rugby school. They play all year round. Our guys are football guys, and we try to make them into rugby guys.

“But we gave them a scare, which was good. Nobody expected us to do that.”

Indeed, the upset-minded No. 10-seeded Hurricanes had No. 2 Collingwood sweating midway through the second half, as the Abbotsford squad was within 14-10.

But then Hansen centre Zack Toews went down with an injury, and the ‘Canes struggled in his absence. Collingwood capitalized with a pair of quick tries and cruised from there.

“A few mental mistakes hurt us,” Sidhu said. “But overall, I’m proud of our guys. We had a hard-fought game, and now we’re going to refocus and go for fifth in B.C., which would be the second-highest we’ve ever finished – we were fourth in the province two years ago. Based on our performance, I’m encouraged.”

The Hurricanes got tries from Brandon Ho and Lucas Schwab, and Vishal Toor kicked two converts and a penalty.

Hansen moves on to face Hugh McRoberts of Richmond in consolation action at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday.

For a full schedule and results from the AAA and AA provincials, visit bcssru.com.