Cowichan’s Chito Gandionco catches a pass during his team’s 55-0 win over Frances Kelsey on April 20. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Cowichan’s Chito Gandionco catches a pass during his team’s 55-0 win over Frances Kelsey on April 20. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

T-Birds top Kelsey, fall to NDSS

Breakers call off rest of season

After a decisive win over the Frances Kelsey Breakers on April 20, the Cowichan Secondary Thunderbirds were edged by the Nanaimo District Islanders last Thursday.

The T-Birds topped Kelsey 55-0 in the all-Valley battle, but were bested 10-7 by NDSS in their final home game of the season.

Head coach Ron Glass was impressed with the play of his team against the Breakers.

“A focus on team defence continued to show improvement as we were able to keep a tenacious Kelsey team from scoring,” he said. “A concentration on passing and decision-making also enabled us to be a threat through the forwards and the backs.”

Thomas Webber and John-Henry Morten each scored two tries, and Dagean Mercer, Trey Gray-Thorne, Robbie Munro and Colten Smith had one apiece. Smith also kicked six conversions and one drop goal. Glass commended Smith and Webber for orchestrating some impressive attacking runs on the back line, and Billy Robertson and Nik Coumont for their assertive ball-carrying in the forward pack.

The loss to Cowichan was one of Kelsey’s last matches of the season, as disappointed head coach Craig Schmidt cancelled the remainder of the campaign after some key players left the team for various reasons. A lack of players had forced the Breakers to start two or three Grade 9s in some of their games.

Schmidt is hoping for more support from the school to keep the team alive next year. Kelsey had qualified for several provincial championship tournaments in recent years.

“I believe the only way we can have a successful rugby program at Kelsey for boys is to have the school involved in the management of the team,” he said. “I did ask the school this year and there were no takers unfortunately. I will offer to coach again at Kelsey but only if the school is more involved.”

Morten scored Cowichan’s lone try against NDSS, which Smith converted. The match was called 22 minutes early when a Cowichan player suffered a dislocated kneecap, a fitting end to a game plagued by injuries.

“At one point, three Cowichan players were injured and were out of the play, while the remaining 12 players were forced to defend against 15 Nanaimo players,” Glass pointed out. “Although we were not as clinical as in past matches, the result never seemed to be in jeopardy. Cowichan played all the rugby in the match and if not for two fantastic individual efforts by Nanaimo, both yielding 50-metre tries, the result likely would have been different.”

The T-Birds were pressing and appeared about to score when the game was ended prematurely after a delay to get an ambulance on the pitch.

The T-Birds will play a Stadium Series game at Shawnigan Lake School this Friday, kicking off at 5:15 p.m., and next Monday they visit Ladysmith at 2:30 p.m.