"We won when it counted," one of Brentwood College School’s rugby players announced to her teammates after they defeated Shawnigan Lake School 25-12 in the consolation final at the AA provincial championships in Port Alberni last weekend.
While neither team was in contention for the B.C. title, pride was on the line as the South Cowichan rivals faced each other in a rematch of the Island final won by Shawnigan.
"It was very satisfying for our players," Brentwood coach Marius Felix said. "Shawnigan beat us fairly handily early in the year, and we had a competitive Island championship. It was a terrific tribute to our players for responding in an excellent way."
Brentwood got tries from Brooklyn Navarette and Shannyn O’Callaghan in the final, with Avi Sharabi kicking two penalties and a conversion After beating Lake City in the first round, a kicked conversion was the only difference as Brentwood lost to Abbotsford 12-10 in the semifinals.
"Probably the most competitive game of the entire tournament was our semifinal against Abbotsford," Felix said. "Bateman would probably take exception if I said we were the second best team there, but I firmly believe we were."
Abbotsford would go on to defeat Bateman 26-12 in the final.
Shawnigan will lose Commissioner’s XV selection Jenn Lemon to graduation along with Katrina Florez, Carolina Mahecha, Nambi Mbaja and Mack Sharpe, but the team has several players coming back who have had significant playing time this year, including Navarette and Grade 10 No. 10 McKenna Haz.
"Our goal is always to be in the top four in the province, and I think we’ll be capable of doing that next year," Felix said.
Shawnigan opened the tournament with a 17-5 win over Heritage Park, then lost 17-12 to Robert Bateman in the semis to set up the third-place game with Brentwood.
Cowichan Secondary placed seventh in the AAA tournament, finishing up with a 38-10 win over Norkam. Mariah Fontana had three tries and three conversions in the last match, while Hannah Morten and Brigitte Reid had single tries and Maddi Pirie slotted a conversion.
The defending provincial champions, Cowichan lost their opener against Elgin Park 8-5 on penalty kicks after a scoreless overtime. Meena Manhas scored the Thunderbirds’ lone try. They were edged 12-10 by Carson Graham in the second round, with Fontana and Darien Hobday doing the scoring.
For a variety of reasons, the T-Birds were without several key players at provincials.
"When you don’t have your top and most experienced players on the field before the B.C.’s or at the B.C.’s, you can’t be successful against quality competition," coach Brad Skene said. "Even though we were missing six or seven and then eight players who were starters a month ago, I was impressed by the character that a number of our Grade 12s showed leading a group of young kids at their first B.C.’s, that played with a lot of heart and guts."
The T-Birds will lose a lot of experienced Grade 12s this year, but 28 players will return, all with valuable experience at the provincial tournament.