Two Aldergrove men came home from the national rugby championships with gold and bronze medals.
Connor Hunter, who has just graduated from Aldergrove Secondary and plays for Abbotsford RFC, was on the gold medal winning Men’s U18 team, while Will Foss was a member of the B.C. U16 team that won bronze in an exciting overtime win.
In total, B.C. rugby squads took home two golds, silver and bronze at the Nationals in Calgary. The Men’s Under-18 and Men’s Under-16 teams were crowned national champs, the B.C. Women’s U18 team captured silver and the U16 B.C.-2 Men’s team took home bronze.
The most heated rivalry in Canadian rugby took centre stage on Sunday afternoon in the Men’s Under-18 National Final with reigning champs Ontario taking on British Columbia. The highly anticipated championship final lived up to expectations with B.C. winger Liam Murphy-Burke (Bayside RFC) scoring the game-winning intercept try to lift B.C. to a 38-33 victory.
“That game may have been great for the fans, but the coaching staff were on the sidelines close to having heart attacks,” said a relieved B.C. head coach Jeff Williams. “That is how finals should be, with both sides putting everything into it and the game going right until the end.”
In a match that saw the lead change hands on several occasions, Ontario drew first blood to go up 5-0 when their prop Curtis Lawson barrelled over for a try. The score was converted by Lucas Hammond.
Ontario were up 21-14 at the half but let B.C. back into the game early in the second frame when scrum half Jorden Best (Abbotsford RFC) broke through for a try, with B.C. tacking on a conversion and a penalty.
The final 20 minutes of play were an entertaining display of high-scoring rugby with the lead changing hands three times.
With seven minutes to play, Ontario were in the driving seat with a 33-31 lead and were pressing deep inside B.C.’s twenty-two. Ontario swung the ball wide and a miss-pass move turned disastrous as B.C. winger Murphy-Burke intercepted and ran the ball back for the game winning try. B.C. full back Connor Hunter (Abbotsford RFC) converted for the 38-33 score line and his side managed to fend off any further attacks from their Eastern foes.
“You have to give credit to Ontario because they posed a lot of problems for us,” added Williams.
“Their 8-9-10 combination was dangerous and caused us to make a lot of mistakes. That was a close game just as we expected, but our guys played well and they deserved it.”
Hunter usually plays fly half, however, he says he’s comfortable as full back and he played wing in the final. He kicked for points in many of the games but says B.C. “dominated for the most part, until the final game. It was the closest, and we won by only five points.”
Hunter plans to take the coming year off school and work as well as possibly travel to Australia in the new year to “work and play rugby” before attending University of Victoria next year. He’s also eying the National U19 team which will have training camps this fall before selecting the roster for a two-week tournament in England.
B.C. Men’s U18 Team Results
August 17: BC [ 41 – 0 ] Quebec
August 17: BC [ 56 – 0 ] Manitoba
August 18: BC [ 31 – 0 ] Alberta
August 18: BC [ 12 – 7 ] Ontario
August 20: SEMIFINALS: BC [ 85 – 5] Alberta
August 21: GOLD FINAL: BC [ 38 – 33 ] Ontario-1
BRONZE FOR BC’s U16
In a tightly contested bronze medal final, B.C.-2 downed Ontario-2 22-17 in a match that kept the young players and spectators on their toes through to the final whistle.
BC were down 5-0 early on before forward Alex Ho (Abbotsford RFC) drew the match level with a try to make it 5-5. BC went down 10-5, before Cowichan rugby standout Noah Dobson again drew the score level at 10-10.
Ontario were then up 17-10 with the clock wearing out before BC Captain Spencer Loughlin (Abbotsford RFC) broke through the defence to make it 17-15. BC’s kicker Jack Nyren (Castaway Wanderers RFC) booted the crucial conversion to push the game into overtime.
The extra period with sudden death regulations was over quickly when Loughlin again found space to burst through for a try.
“That was my first time ever going into overtime and it was really stressful,” said Loughlin after the match. “I’m happy now that it’s over and we won, but that was really intense. We played a great game where we crashed through the middle and then spread the ball wide. It was a great team effort.”
Men’s U16 BC-2 (Blue) Team Results
August 17: BC-2 [ 7 – 31 ] Ontario-1
August 17: BC-2 [ 54 – 0 ] New Brunswick
August 18: BC-2 [ 20 – 3 ] Alberta
August 18: BC-2 [ 19 – 17 ] Newfoundland
August 20: SEMIFINALS: BC-1 [ 29 – 17 ] BC-2
August 21: BRONZE FINAL: BC-2 [ 22 – 17 ] Ontario-2