The Cowichan Piggies locked up the Times Cup with a 28-24 win over Westshore at home on Saturday, prevailing in the only competition that includes all of Vancouver Island’s First Division sides.
First Division teams from clubs with Premier Division entries take part in a separate province-wide competition, leaving Cowichan and Port Alberni to their own devices outside of the Times Cup tournament. First Division teams from clubs that field Premiership sides are regarded by some as stronger, but the Piggies have proven that assumption wrong.
“It’s fantastic to get that hardware,” first-year Cowichan head coach Andrew Wright said. “The boys feel really confident that they can play against these clubs.”
The match was Westshore’s last game of the series. Cowichan still has one left, and would have had another opportunity to clinch if they needed it, but preferred to claim the title at their earliest convenience. The Piggies improved to 5-0 in Times Cup play, while second-place Westshore dropped to 4-2.
“The boys were obviously pretty happy,” Wright said.
According to engravings on the trophy itself, the Times Cup was first awarded in 1932, and first won by a Cowichan club in 1936. Cowichan won it most recently in 2013, which happened to be the last year that Wright played.
The players were “pretty nervous” the night before, talking to and texting each other to get pumped up for the match.
“We were well-prepared for the game,” Wright said. “We were expecting Westshore to bring out the guns.”
This was Cowichan’s one and only game this year against Westshore, and as expected, Westshore did have some players in the lineup from their Premier side, which had the weekend off. That didn’t intimidate anyone.
“With the way our team has come together over the past year and a bit, we can play the top teams,” Wright said. “Especially when the guys band together and pull out their best performance.”
The Piggies opened the scoring within the first two minutes on a penalty goal by Owen Wood. Westshore responded with an unconverted try from a lineout, one Wright admitted he would like to have back. Cowichan kept the pressure on and got a try from veteran Louis Gudmundseth to go ahead 10-5, but Westshore restored their lead with a converted try of their own. Just before the half, Bruce Moss scored to give Cowichan a 15-12 edge at the 40-minute mark.
“There was lots of confidence in the huddle at halftime,” Wright noted. “We were technically better. They had size, but we’ve put the time in. Our boys know how to take the ball low and stay in unison.”
Wood kicked two more penalties early in the second half to put Cowichan up 21-12. Westshore came back to score an unconverted try around the midway point of the second half. Noah Dobson powered over the line to give the Piggies a 28-17 lead, enough to hold off one more converted try by Westshore.
The Piggies have a bye this weekend, which will give Cowichan back Danny Hamstra a chance to suit up for the Vancouver Island Crimson Tide when they host the Seattle Seawolves of Major League Rugby at Westhills Stadium on Sunday at 7 p.m.
“It’s good for him, and the club too,” Wright said.
Cowichan captain Jenner Teufel has also been offered a chance to play for the Tide on Sunday. There was no word at press time on whether or not Piggies product George Barton would be suiting up for Seattle.
The following weekend, Cowichan will visit UVic for a Third Division match, followed by a trip to the Mainland to face United in Coquitlam. The Piggies return home on March 3 to host Alberni, and will play their last Times Cup match against Nanaimo on April 4.