Road Warriors: T-Birds learn lessons on trip

Cowichan Secondary School’s girls rugby program has continued to grow since winning the provincial XV and sevens championships last year. Now consisting of full-blown first and second teams, the Thunderbirds played six road games in four days last week, and proved they are still among the teams to beat in B.C.

“Playing six games in four days was great for our program,” head coach Brad Skene said. “We graduated a number of important players last year but these hard road games have allowed our new senior group to develop roles and the rookies have gotten to play a lot of rugby in a short time.”

The busy stretch began last Wednesday when the Cowichan teams travelled to the Comox Valley, where the senior team faced G.P. Vanier and the development side played Mark R. Isfeld.

The senior T-Birds defeated Vanier 29-7, but Skene noted that they weren’t facing the full Towhees squad.

“We can’t read too much into the score line, as a number of Vanier players were away on a school trip,” he pointed out. “I was pleased with our performance in the second half.”

Adrienne Saari scored two tries in the win, while Hannah Morten, Sara Lowes and Mariah Fontana had one each. Fontana also kicked two conversions.

The development team lost 29-17 to Isfeld, but because Isfeld had to borrow players from Vanier to field a full team, Cowichan won by default. Emily Lindsay and Maddie Pirie each had a try and a conversion, and Drew Hobday also scored a try.

“Our development team beat Isfeld during a spring break jamboree, but in this game they found a much more physical and dynamic opponent,” Skene reported.

On Friday, the T-Birds headed for the Lower Mainland, where both teams faced Robert Bateman on Friday.

The seniors gave up four firsthalf tries to the quick Bateman team in a 34-26 loss. Morten scored two tries, Meana Manhas and Haeley Lowe had one each, and Fontana kicked three conversions.

“Bateman is a strong team with numerous gifted athletes and they had a fantastic start,” Skene said. “This was a lesson that we needed to learn.”

The Cowichan development team came up with a 36-27 win over Bateman’s second XV. Kendall Raymond-Stevens scored two tries, while Lindsay, Hobday, Karli Longridge and Jamayna Peppers had one each. Lindsay also kicked two conversions and Pirie added one.

“This was a barn-burner,” Skene said. “Back and forth action between two sets of novice players. I think this game was the ‘Wow! I get it now!’ game for a large portion of the development team.”

On Saturday, both Cow High teams earned victories over Elgin Park, the seniors winning 14-10 and the development side winning 55-0. Fontana had a try and two conversions for the seniors, and Denise Roy scored a try. As Cowichan improved on the previous day’s performance.

Roy and Brigitte Reid had three tries apiece for Cowichan’s development team. Lindsay recorded two tries and four conversions, Hobday had one try, and Pirie kicked one conversion.

“I didn’t expect this,” Skene admitted. “I think the score line reflects how much our rookies have learned by playing three games in quick succession.”