Yale Lions win senior boys rugby bronze

'Crazy game' ends in Yale's favour, while Robert Bateman finish sixth in the province.

Yale’s Ryan Chandler bowls his way through Earl Marriott defenders during Saturday’s third-place game.

Yale’s Ryan Chandler bowls his way through Earl Marriott defenders during Saturday’s third-place game.

The Yale Lions capped their best-season ever for senior boys rugby by earning  the AAA bronze at the BC high school provincial championships Saturday at Rotary Stadium.

Facing the Earl Marriott Mariners in a rematch of the Fraser Valley final, Yale tied the game at 22 in its final moments and, after a scoreless overtime, won on a tie-break with four tries to Earl Marriott’s three.

With two private schools battling for the top spot in the province, the game also crowned the B.C. public school champion.

The final moments of regulation saw a dramatic turn of events.

Lions head coach Doug Primrose described the game as “crazy,” which particularly applied to the final moments.

With the ball 40 metres from goal, Yale drove the ball downfield knowing that any mistake would end their season. Lions centre Josh Long nevertheless was able to get the ball down between the goalposts and Yale were thought to have won the game, only for the convert blocked by desperate Mariners players – something neither coach had ever seen before.

The game then headed to overtime deadlocked at 22-22 and remained that way after 10 minutes of play. And because high school rugby games in B.C. aren’t allowed to go longer than 70 minutes, Yale claimed victory based on having scored four tries to Earl Marriott’s three.

Long had two of the tries. Captain Chris Combs had another, and supplied ferocious defence, while Arsh Shergill also scored in his first rugby start.

The game marked the end to what Primrose said was the program’s best in its history, with the Lions also having claimed their first Fraser Valley championship.

It’s a finish to the season that Primrose said he wouldn’t have predicted  two months ago, when his squad was struggling.

“We’ve come a long way,” he said. “We probably at that time wouldn’t have predicted we’d be the best public school in British Columbia.”

Primrose said next year’s side is shaping up to be just as good, with eight returning starters and a new wave of players fresh from winning the Fraser Valley junior title.

“We’re looking pretty strong for the next couple of years,” he said.

Robert Bateman, meanwhile, fell in the fifth-place game 17-15 to Oak Bay to finish sixth in the province.

Primrose said the strong performance of the Lions, Timberwolves and several other Fraser Valley teams at the provincials show the strength of local rugby and the AAA league in which the teams play.