Loaded with talent from the Cowichan Valley and led by a pair of local coaches, the North Vancouver Island Tsunami claimed the gold medal in the U16 boys division at the Provincial Regional Championships.
The nail-biter final came down to the last whistle as Vancouver East had possession on the goal line in the dying seconds, with a knock-on preserving the Tsunami’s 14-10 victory.
“It was a very intense game for the kids,” said Darren Sage, who coached the U16 boys with Marvin Seymour. “And there were probably a couple of heart attacks on the sidelines for the coaches.”
Players on the U16 boys side with local connections included Moses Gilbert (Cowichan Secondary), Logan Kits (Cowichan Secondary), Matt McDougall (Brentwood/Cowichan Rugby Football Club), Ciaran Breen (Shawnigan Lake School/CRFC), Riory Young (Shawnigan), Blake Cleasby (Brentwood College School), Torren Kaiser (Brentwood/CRFC), Joel Cook (Brentwood/CRFC), Graeme McKay (Brentwood), Jamin Hodgkins (Shawnigan/CRFC), Graeme Norris (Shawnigan), Jojo Tanaka-Campbell (Shawnigan), Nathan Goliath (Shawnigan), Cale Ward (Brentwood/CRFC), Liam Mitchell (Brentwood/CRFC), Will Mann (Shawnigan), Nick Joe (Ladysmith Secondary/CRFC), Mackenzie Justason (Wellington Secondary/CRFC), Aidan Kirkham (Ladysmith/CRFC), and Carter Blaikie (Nanaimo District Secondary/CRFC).
Sage was impressed with the calibre of play at the provincial championships.
“It was my third or fourth time coaching there, and I think the level of rugby is far and above what I’ve seen,” he said. “It’s very accomplished over all the different regions. Definitely on the third day, the semis and finals, the kids had to dig deep and earn that medal.”
The Tsunami went through pool play a perfect 3-0, then got by Fraser Valley East in the semifinals before beating Vancouver East in the final.
The U16 boys team had to come together quickly, as the majority of the team was only together for four or five weeks, with practices once a week.
“Some of them are on the same teams, and they play each other through the high school season, so they know what they can do,” Sage pointed out. “It’s just a matter of getting everyone together to learn the system and become cohesive.”
The Tsunami will be in action at the Thunder Sevens tournament at Shawnigan Lake School this Friday, and the U16 and U18 teams will host a visiting team from England at the Cowichan Rugby Football Club next Tuesday.
Taking bronze at the provincial regional championships was the North Island U16 girls side, coached by Cowichan’s Jenna Bugden and Comox’s Aimee Burley, and also loaded with local talent. Valley players on the team included Bailey Novak (Cowichan Secondary/CRFC), Deanna Cvitanovich (Cowichan Secondary), Kaitlyn Crichton (Cowichan Secondary), Lauren McRae (Frances Kelsey Secondary), Madi Jumeau (Cowichan Secondary/CRFC), Mia Eagar (Cowichan Secondary, CRFC), Samantha Lillywhite (Shawnigan Lake School), Brianna Margerison (Cowichan Secondary), Mikayla Brennan (Shawnigan/CRFC), Hannah Wilson (Cowichan Secondary/CRFC) and Jordan Cooper (Wellington, CRFC).