The U16 boys rugby B.C. championship game didn’t start the way the Cowichan Piggies might have wanted last Sunday, but they weathered the storm and battled back to beat Capilano 36-27 and claim the provincial title.
The game had gone back and forth until about 10 minutes before halftime when the Piggies took the ball out of a scrum somewhere around 45 metres out from the Capilano goal line. The Cowichan backs called a play, made it work perfectly, and finished with a try.
“After that, our boys took the drivers seat and controlled the game as much as they could,” said Darren Sage, who coached the U16 Piggies along with Doug Branchflower. “We had scored a try or two before that, but it was still really close. That was a pretty big turning point.”
Cowichan took just 17 players to UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium for the match, while Capilano had a full team of 25 and a couple more who took warmups. Capilano got off to a strong start, which the Piggies expected, but still weren’t able to contain. Within the first five minutes, Cowichan ended up trailing 10-0.
“They came out ready to play,” Sage said. “They came out really fast. We knew they were going to do that. Our boys hadn’t experienced that all season.”
The Piggies recovered from that shock and gradually got back into the match.
“The boys kind of calmed down. They started playing our style of rugby, our game. We focused on what we needed to do.”
Cowichan’s try-scorers included Graeme Norris, Riory Young and Callum Blake-Currier, while kicker Jamin Hodgkins — a co-captain with Aidan Kirkham — made key contributions.
“It was definitely helpful that he was in his groove,” Sage said of Hodgkins.
Needless to say, the Cowichan players were thrilled to win the provincial title, the second in three years for the U16 Piggies, with a second-place finish in between.
“They worked hard all season for it,” Sage said. “There was a lot of redemption in that.”
The players may not have thought before the season started that they were part of a championship-calibre team, but they went nearly undefeated — their only loss was a forfeit — and proved themselves more than capable.
“It was our goal from day one,” Sage said. “I think everyone was surprised when we announced that would be our goal, but they bought into it, and it paid off. The boys had a solid game. They worked hard all season: not just one day, but all year.”
About half the roster will move up to the U18 ranks next season.
“We’ll have a group of returning kids hopefully who will stick around and bring some friends out for us next year,” Sage said.