Shawnigan Lake School and Brentwood College won their first-round games as the provincial boys high school rugby championships kicked off at Brentwood last Saturday. Cowichan Secondary and Frances Kelsey weren't as fortunate as they lost their tournament openers, but all four teams will be looking for strong outings as the provincials continue in Abbotsford on Wednesday.
Top-seeded Shawnigan had no trouble as they opened the AAA tournament with a 112-0 crushing of 16th-seeded G.P. Vanier.
"Vanier played with good commitment and courage but just did not have enough experience or size to handle a very talented Shawnigan side," Shawnigan coach Tim Murdy said. "It was a comfortable victory, but one that we have already put in our rear-view mirror. We are aware that the games will get progressively harder as we move forward in the 16-team bracket draw."
Seeded eighth in the AA tourney, Brentwood knew they would have a close game against ninth-ranked D.W. Poppy, and it played out as promised, with Brentwood prevailing by a single converted try: 26-19.
"Although we were in the lead most of the game, if not the whole game, it wasn't certain until the final whistle," Brentwood coach Shane Thompson said.
In another incredibly close battle, AAA ninth seed Cowichan took eight-seeded Handsworth into double overtime before falling 22-17 despite phenomenal performances by Josh Jones and Peyton Edgar.
"Our lads came out soft for the first five minutes and then got back on track," Thunderbirds coach Rogi Young said. "There were moments of brilliancy and some missed opportunities."
Kelsey had a favorable 11th seed going into the tournament, but ran into a determined Glenlyon Norfolk School team that beat them 36-0. "We gave away too many penalties during the contest, and their fly-half was excellent and seemed to kick them out of trouble whenever we tried to get some momentum going," coach Tom Fogarty said. "They were also very fit and organized, which allowed them to put pressure on us both in attack and defence. Some positives for us were our lineouts and our scrums, which were solid throughout. I don't think we're too far away from being able to compete at a higher level with these private schools."
When the AAA tournament resumes on Wednesday, Shawnigan will face Handsworth, while Cowichan will play Vanier in a rematch of a game earlier this month that the T-Birds won, ending a years-long streak of losses to the Towhees.
Kelsey's next game in the AA tourney will be against Langley's R.E. Mountain, and Brentwood will take on top-seeded Rockridge, with a victory assuring them of a top-four finish.
"We have to correct a number of things and play a good game to beat them," Thompson said. "The important thing is to take the things we do in practice into the game."