For the first time ever, the Yale Lions senior boys rugby team are provincial champions.
The Lions earned top spot in the AAA Tier 1 division with a 17-0 win over North Vancouver’s Carson Graham Eagles at Rotary Stadium on Saturday.
Yale had a 12-0 lead at halftime, and stuffed the Eagles at the goal line to keep them off the scoreboard in the second half. The Lions added another try in the second half to win 17-0. Matt Cercel, Evan Johnston and Chris Combs scored tries for Yale.
Head coach Doug Primrose said Carson Graham was a tough opponent, but his team’s focus on defence earned them the crown.
“I think our pressure on defence caused them to make a lot of mistakes,” he said. “Our guys were pretty relentless out there. Carson is a tough side with some big boys and we knew we had to play good defence and we did.”
Primrose said the Lions have won Fraser Valley banners before, but this is the first time Yale has earned the provincial title.
“It’s great for the program,” he said. “These kids have been really dedicated, especially our Grade 12s who have worked really hard over the last four years. It’s a good reward for them in their grad year.”
This year’s tournament featured the brand new AAAA bracket, and also featured AA action. The provincials will remain in Abbotsford for at least the next two years, and Primrose said it’s another sign of the growth of the sport locally.
“It’s going to be really good to have provincials here, and if you look at this year we had four teams from Abbotsford competing at provincials. Only Vancouver had more and they’re a much bigger school district,” he said. “That shows the growth of rugby here and I think the fact that many schools are working with the Abbotsford Rugby Football Club is another positive.”
The Lions opened the tournament with a 62-0 win over Cowichan on Wednesday. Players scoring tries were: Diego Zuniga, Josh Long (two), Combs (two), Johnston, Jake Maclean, Joel Ratzlaff, Zach Bain and Connor Byron.
Yale then defeated Lord Tweedsmuir 41-7 in the semi-final on Thursday. Byron (two), Long, Kyle Davis, Combs, Maclean and Johnston all scored tries.
The W.J. Mouat Hawks also had a strong tournament, earning the bronze in the AAA Tier 2 division. The Hawks opened with a 45-17 win over Gleneagle on Wednesday, but then fell 19-12 to eventual champion Elgin Park on Thursday. Mouat then bounced back to win bronze with a 24-3 win over Terry Fox on Saturday.
The Robert Bateman Timberwolves picked up a silver in the AA Tier 2, after falling 13-12 to L.V. Rogers on Saturday in the championship. Bateman defeated R.A. McMath 22-17 on Wednesday, and beat Sir Charles Tupper 27-20 on Thursday to qualify for the final.
The Abbotsford Panthers finished sixth in the AA Tier 1, opening with a 51-5 loss to Rockridge on Wednesday, but then beating G.W. Graham 38-5 on Thursday. The Panthers then lost 27-17 to Langley on Saturday to close out the tournament.
The first-ever AAAA final saw Shawnigan Lake defeat St. George’s 12-8 on Saturday.
Rotary Stadium also hosted the first-ever junior boys provincials on Friday.
Shawnigan Lake defeated Carson Graham 29-3 to take home the inaugural crown. Next year’s junior provincials also take place in Abbotsford, but the field will expand to include the top eight junior teams in the province.
Also a part of the provincials weekend in rugby was the first-ever Grade 8 all-star game.
The game, which took place on Friday, featured talent from Abbotsford schools taking on a team made up of Langley Grade 8 players.
Players from Abbotsford Middle, Chief Dan George, W.A. Fraser, C.G. Howe and Eugene Reimer took on the Langley team that featured players from HD Stafford, D.W. Poppy, Brookswood and Yorkson Creek.
Clayburn Middle students were named to the team, but were unavailable to compete at the event due to a school rafting trip.
Abbotsford won the game 22-17 with tries from Talha Shah (Fraser), Ryan Street (Abby), Gabe Harvey (Fraser) and Rowan Bridger (Fraser). Rowan also added a convert.
The Abbotsford team was coached by Dilpreet Chahal (Abby), Ryan McWhinney (Fraser) and Chris Assmus (Chief).
The rugby senior girls high school provincials in Kamloops also concluded on Saturday and saw Yale finish third in AAA, Abbotsford Senior finish second in AA and Bateman place fifth in AA.