The Cowichan Piggies are Vancouver Island champions.
The Cowichan Rugby Football Club’s senior men’s team claimed the Times Cup, representing supremacy in the Island’s First Division, with a thrilling 16-13 victory over Castaway Wanderers on a frozen Herd Road field last Saturday afternoon.
Castaways’ home pitch in Oak Bay was shut down, so the men’s and women’s finals had to be relocated to the Cowichan field, which suited the Piggies just fine.
“It was an exciting day,” Cowichan head coach Andrew Wright commented. “The team atmosphere was pretty focused. It was super lucky that we were able to have the games at home.”
With no Premier league competition this fall, the Island clubs’ top men’s teams played in the “First Division,” while the second teams, which usually would have been called First Division sides, played in the “Second Division.” Regardless of the label, the “Second Division” teams still battled for the Times Cup, the First Division prize.
The Piggies and Castaways were clearly the class of the Island Second Division this fall. Castaways finished the season undefeated, and the Piggies’ lone defeat came at the hands of CW in Oak Bay.
“Obviously it was a nail-biter,” Wright said. “It was a true rugby game. We played a full 80 minutes. We haven’t had that since we played them last.”
Castaways scored first and made the conversion to go up 7-0. Owen Wood got Cowichan on the board with a penalty goal, then scored a try off a set piece and kicked the conversion, giving his team a 10-7 lead at halftime. Another penalty goal put the Piggies up 13-7 before they got into trouble and Castaways slotted a pair of penalties to pull even. Finally, Wood made it 16-13 with his third penalty kick of the match, and the Piggies held on for the remaining minutes.
“It was a scrappy game in the second half,” Wright acknowledged. “By showing determination and working the game plan, the boys persevered. It was pretty cool for everyone to experience.”
Wood may have been responsible for all of the points, but the win was a team effort, Wright emphasized.
“They were all strong, from the starting 15 to the reserves and the physios and trainers on the sidelines,” the coach said. “It was a whole group effort. That’s what it’s all about.”
It hasn’t been long since Cowichan’s last Times Cup win in 2018, but this was still the first win for many of the Cowichan players.
Castaways is one of the Island clubs that fields a Premiership team as well as a First Division side, and Wright’s high regard for that club made Saturday’s victory even sweeter.
“They’re a huge club, CW,” he said. “I give a lot of respect to them. We’ll see them again. It will always be a battle with those bigger clubs that carry two or three teams.”
The Piggies will take some time to enjoy this win before resuming play in January, when they will work toward a provincial title.
“This one [the Times Cup] isn’t as big,” Wright noted. “but it’s always good to have something after you’ve worked so hard.
“It’s great for the club. It’s all for the club: for everyone else coming and everyone else in the past.”
The spring competition that begins in January will see Cowichan compete in an all-Island First Division with seven teams leading up to crossover playoffs with the Mainland First Division to determine a provincial champion. Wright believes the Piggies will be contenders.
“I’m always optimistic,” he said. “I think we should be up there [in the standings] on the Island, and if that’s true, we should be up there on the Mainland as well.”