Shown here in a game against South Delta earlier this season, John-Henry Morton was Cowichan Secondary’s representative on the Commissioner’s XV at provincials. (Citizen file)

Shown here in a game against South Delta earlier this season, John-Henry Morton was Cowichan Secondary’s representative on the Commissioner’s XV at provincials. (Citizen file)

Injuries and officiating impact T-Birds’ chances

The Cowichan Secondary Thunderbirds weren’t out of place at the provincial AAA Tier II boys rugby championships in Abbotsford last week, but they weren’t able to win a game, ending up eighth in Tier II and 16th in B.C.

The T-Birds started the tournament with a tough matchup against Tier II top seed Argyle out of North Vancouver, but managed to keep the game close throughout the first half. Thanks to an early try by Moses Gilbert, Cowichan held the lead until the 26th minute when injuries forced the T-Birds to make some adjustments to the lineup. Argyle capitalized with two tries late in the half, and led 12-5 at the break. Cowichan’s many second-half replacements had trouble finding cohesion and Argyle ran in six more tries to eventually win 50-5. No.8 Haele Ferguson was named Cowichan’s player of the game.

The next match had a closer outcome as the T-Birds fell 19-5 to West Vancouver. The Highlanders went up 12-0 with two tries late in the first half, exploiting a weakness in Cowichan’s back three. The T-Birds came back before the half was over, however, as fly-half and eventual player of the game Logan Kits scored on a sensational run. Cowichan got into scoring position several times in the second half, but couldn’t create the tying try, then ended up giving up a late one against the flow.

The T-Birds had a strong showing in their third round game, but couldn’t get past the “bizarre” officiating and ended up falling 22-14 to Lord Tweedsmuir despite outscoring the Panthers 14-10 in the second half.

Tweedsmuir’s first points came on a penalty try awarded while a Cowichan player was down with an injury, and the Panthers led 12-0 at halftime. The T-Birds battled back in the second half with hard work by the forward pack setting up a try by Tanner Cardinal.

Gilbert was sent off on a yellow card, even though he was on offence at the time, but made up for it by scoring immediately upon his return to the field. Gilbert was then handed another yellow card, again while he was carrying the ball.

“We poured on immense pressure, but the referee simply would not allow us to equalize as every attempt at scoring would end with a dubious call,” Cowichan head coach Ron Glass said.

Tweedsmuir added some insurance with a try in injury time. Kits finished the match with a pair of conversions, and Gilbert was named player of the game.

T-Birds captain John-Henry Morten was selected for the Commissioner’s XV tournament all-star team, recognizing his leadership and on-field dominance. The team has 20 players set to graduate, and Glass is bracing for a rebuild.

“We look forward to meeting keen athletes to build on the T-Bird tradition,” he said.