The Abbotsford Rugby Football Club (ARFC) is hoping to take its place among the elite.
ARFC and Burnaby are both looking to join Capilano RFC in Premier League qualification, and the rivals go head-to-head on Saturday in Abbotsford. The game will be played at Central Fraser Valley Exhibition Park at 2:30 p.m.
Abbotsford has not lost a qualifying game since Sept. 10 when they were held try-less in a 34-3 defeat to Capilano.
The club went on to down Bayside 33-19 and produced an impressive 48-15 win over Vancouver Rowing Club last weekend.
“Our main strengths have been how we have gelled as a team,” said Abbotsford head coach Jason Young ahead of this weekend’s clash.
“The core group of guys have bought in and have taken things seriously. We have players with an array of ages that work very hard and focus each and every week how to make the Abbotsford club better as a whole. It has created a culture.”
“I am expecting a very good, physical game,” Young added. “We have had similar scores against the teams we have both played in the league. Kris De Scossa will have them well prepared and he is a great coach.”
Burnaby Lake are 2-1 against qualifying teams and narrowly missed out on qualification when they fell 10-5 against Capilano on Oct. 15. They rebounded from the loss with a bonus point win against the Bayside Sharks and are now sitting one point ahead of Abbotsford in the qualification race.
While Abbotsford holds the upper hand offensively, averaging 28 ppg to Burnaby’s 21, both teams boast lethal scorers in their arsenal. Abbotsford’s Patrick Shields is tied with Burnaby’s Jeke Gotegote for third highest scorer in the Spray League with 40 points. Gotegote is the league’s top try scorer with eight this season, while Shields has notched seven tries, a convert and one penalty.
Chris Chalmers, a standout back rower with the BC senior men’s provincial team, has led Abbotsford in recent weeks.
“Chalmers has captained the side the last three weekends and has done a great job,” Young said. “He leads by example by making big tackles all over the field.”
According to a press release from the B.C. Rugby Union, a ruling from the union’s Competitions Committee will now see eight teams contest for the Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League title, up from the original seven teams slated for the 2011-2012 season.
The ruling has determined that two teams from the Lower Mainland Men’s Spray Elite competition will qualify for the Premier League with the remaining sides set to join Vancouver Island’s Velox Valhallians in a final qualification round for the eighth spot.
Based on the current standings between the five Lower Mainland sides contesting for berths, North Shore club Capilano RFC will go through regardless of this weekend’s result against the UBC Old Boys Ravens.
Having missed out on Tier One rugby during the Spring 2011 season, Capilano proved to be worthy contenders during the qualification round. The Caps went 3-1 against qualifying teams, averaging a league best 29.25 points per game. They also led the league defensively, allowing just 14 points against.
The winner of Saturday’s Spray Elite matchup between Burnaby Lake Rugby Club and Abbotsford RFC will also go through to the Premier League, joining Capilano and the five automatic qualifiers; Castaway Wanderers RFC (Victoria), Meraloma Rugby Club (Vancouver), UBCOB Ravens (Vancouver), University of Victoria Vikes and James Bay Athletic Association (Victoria).