Shawnigan silver at AAA rugby tourney

After reigning atop high school boys rugby for the last five years, Shawnigan Lake School suffered a setback in the AAA final last Saturday, finishing second in the province after a 15-12 loss to St. George’s.

It wasn’t the result head coach Tim Murdy was hoping for, but he kept it in perspective.

“It means we lost,” he said. “Good lesson in life, and in sport, for the guys. You don’t always win. The New Zealand All Blacks are the world’s best rugby team, ranked No. 1 year after year, and yet they had a rugby world cup drought from 1987 until 2011.”

Shawnigan opened the tournament with a 34-0 win over Gleneagle on day one at Brentwood College, then narrowly defeated Yale 26-20 in the quarterfinals after the tournament resumed in Abbotsford, followed by a 35-13 win over Lord Byng in the semifinals. Ben McKinnon, who was named to the Commissioner’s XV, and Matt Beukeboom scored for Shawnigan in the final, and Conor O’Neill kicked a conversion. This year didn’t work out as Shawnigan expected, but Murdy is optimistic about a return to form in 2015.

“We will be very strong,” he said. “We have 16 of the 26 in the squad returning next year.”

Cowichan Secondary finished 16th in the AAA tournament, closing out with a 26-19 loss to South Kamloops. Brock Gowanlock and Ethan Burke scored and Kyle Joe kicked two conversions as the teams finished he first half even at 14-14. Cowichan dominated the second half, but Eddy Walt’s lone try was all they could muster and

Kamloops managed to slip ahead. “We competed very well at the tournament and were competitive in all our matches,” coach Ron Glass said. “It was fantastic for Cowichan to qualify for the tournament after some close qualifying battles. The teams ranked ninth to 16th are very even in strength and on any given day could defeat each other.”

Cowichan had lost to Oak Bay in the first round of play at Brentwood, but got back on the winning track on day two in Abbotsford with a 5-0 win over Handsworth on a try by Gowanlock, who would go on to represent the Thunderbirds on the Commissioner’s XV. On day three, Cowichan lost 27-0 to Semiahmoo.

In the AA bracket, a battered and bruised Brentwood team finished seventh, beating D.W. Poppy 27-19 in their tournament-ender.

“It was a shocking year for injuries,” coach Tony Medina said. “We ended up with 10 of our starting

15 unable to play. We went in with a shortage, but we still competed well.” After a 50-20 win over Glenlyon Norfolk on day one, Brentwood fell 10-9 to Hugh McRoberts, the eventual bronze medallists, in the quarterfinals, then lost 12-10 to Mulgrave on day three.

“We had opportunities, but we didn’t take them, so instead of third, we came seventh,” Medina noted.

The team included 12 Grade 11s who gained valuable experience this year. Grade 12 Tom Sambell was named to the Commissioner’s XV.

“He always puts in a solid performance,” Medina said. “He’s a good player. He was on the First XV last year, so he had a lot of experience, but there was a lot of inexperience around him.

The Frances Kelsey Breakers, in their first provincial tournament since 2006, beat Glenlyon Norfolk 36-14 on the last day of play to finish 11th, an improvement over their pre-tournament ranking of 13th.

“[That was] amazing, considering this was just the third year Kelsey has had a team consecutively, and I had thoughts of possibly making the provincials after four or five years,” head coach Craig Schmidt said.

The Breakers lost 47-12 to St. Michael’s University School in the first round at Brentwood, but won their first game in Abbotsford 12-7 over L.V. Rogers in overtime on a heroic try by captain Rhys Fowler, who would go on to represent Kelsey on the Commissioner’s XV. On day three, Kelsey lost 23-14 to Sir Charles Tupper.

With a year of experience and unexpected success, Kelsey is set up for a promising future.

“The core of our team are in Grade 10 this year, so we are looking to do well the next couple of years as well,” Schmidt said. “The players are so proud to have put Kelsey back on the map in high school rugby.”