While a traditional high school rugby power — Shawnigan Lake School — won the Tier 1 championship in the provincial boys sevens tournament at Brentwood College School last weekend, the event did allow schools that are smaller, less athletics-oriented or from less rugby-focused parts of B.C. to compete alongside the big guns.
The 16-team Tier 2 division included sides like Elphinstone Secondary from Gibsons and Ballenas from Parksville, schools that aren’t usually represented at the top level in XVs.
“You need fewer guys to make up a team,” Brentwood head coach Shane Thompson pointed out. “You don’t need 22, you need 12, so smaller schools can compete with bigger schools.”
Shawnigan, who won the AAAA title at the B.C. XV tournament earlier in the month, topped the Tier 1 rankings, beating Oak Bay Secondary 49-12 in the final to cap off a phenomenal year for the school. Shawnigan went 6-0 at the sevens tournament.
“It is still a significant achievement for the kids,” Shawnigan head coach Tim Murdy said. “But the XVs for sure was our ultimate goal this year.
Brentwood, which placed second in the AA division at XV provincials, finished third of the eight teams in Tier 1 at sevens. Schools aren’t separated by population size in sevens as they are in XVs, giving a smaller school like Brentwood a chance to test itself against bigger schools.
“We beat teams like [provincial XV AAAA runner-up] St. George’s, St. Michaels and Oak Bay,” Thompson pointed out. They’re all good schools. The guys did well. We’ve had a very good season, coming second at XVs and third at sevens; those are good signs for us that we are moving in the right direction. I hope that continues with the kids coming up. We’re creating a culture of competitive rugby.”
Cowichan Secondary finished a respectable fifth in Tier 2 at the sevens tournament, losing only to the eventual first- and second-place sides from R.E. Mountain in Langley and Elphinstone. The Thunderbirds employed outstanding defence to shut out their opponents in four of their six matches.
The T-Birds started things off with a 7-0 win over Brentwood’s B side, with Logan Kits scoring and converting the lone try of the match. Kits then scored twice, with Brenden Kerwin and Haele Ferguson adding one apiece, in a 20-0 victory over Kelowna’s Rutland. Cowichan closed out pool play with a 24-10 defeat at the hands of Elphinstone, getting another try from Kits and one from Colten Smith.
“A poor seven minutes of rugby cost us the top spot in the pool,” T-Birds head coach Ron Glass said. “Despite giving up four quick tries, we answered back with the last two. “
Three times in their quarterfinal against R.E. Mountain, the T-Birds knocked on the ball in the process of scoring. Those three tries might have turned the tables as Cowichan ended up losing 22-0 to the eventual Tier 2 Brentwood Cup champs.
The T-Birds regrouped to beat Ballenas 15-0 in the second round, on tries by Kits, Moses Gilbert and Will Piche, and Belmont 15-0 in the fifth-place game, on two tries by Kerwin and one by Smith.
Grade 10 sensation Kits was named to the Tier 2 Dream Team after the tournament, and caught the eyes of national program scouts.
“Logan had a phenomenal tournament, amassing five tries and preventing countless others in his role as sweeper,” Glass noted. “Logan’s performance did not go unnoticed and he is now on the Canadian selectors radar.”
The Tier 1 Dream Team included Dean Mason and Evan Norris from Shawnigan and Kieran Marrett-Hitch from Brentwood. Shawnigan’s Seth Purdey, Carter Miller and Conor Sinclair were honourable mentions, as was Brentwood’s Santi Guadarrama.
Brentwood coach Thompson would like to see the B.C. Secondary Schools Rugby Union invest more in sevens, which is gaining a larger foothold on the national and international scenes, in no small part because of the sport’s presence at the Olympics.
“They should maybe make some changes because the landscape of rugby is changing in North America,” Thompson said. “The Canadian funding for the national team is mostly going to sevens, not XVs. There’s still no league for sevens [for B.C. schools], no structure for sevens, just this tournament at the end. We should be playing four or five tournaments like that.
“I’m not saying get rid of XVs. They just have to balance it better.”