Shawnigan Lake School is back on top of the rugby world.
The school’s senior boys team had their five-year run as provincial AAA champions snapped with a loss to St. George’s last spring, but regained the title in Abbotsford last Saturday with a 35-5 victory over that same St. George’s squad.
"It feels great," head coach Tim Murdy said. "The kids worked very hard towards the goal this year. They’re a talented group, and they really got what they desered."
Even though it was St. George’s that Shawnigan defeated, Murdy doesn’t consider it connected to last year’s loss.
"I’m not sure if it’s a measure of revenge," he said. "There’s definitely a sense of satisfaction for the kids, but not so much for the staff. The staff understand that it’s a different year, different kids. For the boys that played in the game last year, it was something special to get that back."
Rugby observers see Shawnigan as a stacked team, but no matter how talented they are, the players still have to work hard to achieve success, Murdy pointed out.
"It’s a reflection of the commitment these guys have," he said. "People talk about how we have all these great players, but they’re never there to see how hard these guys work, how they’re in the weight room four days a week, how they gave up their May long weekend to come back early and practice. It’s a very committed group of young men."
Shawnigan found little resistance in the first three rounds, beating G.P. Vanier 112-0, Handsworth 58-3 and Earl Marriott by a score of 46-3. The final against St. George’s started as a close battle.
"St. George’s is a very good team," Murdy acknowledged.
"They had us under pressure initially, at least territorially. But our guys stuck to our structures on defence and weathered the storm."
Scoring from Shawnigan was balanced in the final match, with no one player standing out.
"It was kind of a comprehensive team win," Murdy said. "We have some strong individuals, but it was very much a team performance."
Co-captain George Barton capped off five years with Shawnigan by being named to the Commissioner’s XV. He and fellow co-captain Cole Milne are among several graduating players – about a third of the starting lineup – that Shawnigan will miss next year. With a strong group of Grade 11s this year and a Grade 10 side that won the Island championship, Murdy doesn’t feel his team will lose any ground.
"We’ll have a good team again next year, he said.
The 2015 title is Shawnigan’s sixth in the last seven years, and the school’s eighth consecutive appearance in the provincial final, but Murdy still sees things from a year-to-year basis.
"We don’t look at it as a legacy," he said. "We look at it as a process-driven program that starts at the Grade 8 level. They’re learning the game and learning what it takes to be successful."