Sports

South Surrey rugby rivalries renewed at Sandcastle Cup

Fans of the Earl Marriott Mariners (left) and Semiahmoo Totems (right) will be out in full force at South Surrey Athletic Park Tuesday afternoon, cheering on their respective schools at the Sandcastle Cup. The annual senior boys rugby grudge match has been won the last three years by the Mariners. - File photos
Fans of the Earl Marriott Mariners (left) and Semiahmoo Totems (right) will be out in full force at South Surrey Athletic Park Tuesday afternoon, cheering on their respective schools at the Sandcastle Cup. The annual senior boys rugby grudge match has been won the last three years by the Mariners.
— image credit: File photos

Crosstown rugby rivalries are set to be renewed Tuesday when the Sandcastle Cup hits the pitch at South Surrey Athletic Park.

The annual senior boys rugby grudge match pits the defending champion Earl Marriott Mariners against the Semiahmoo Totems, who owned the trophy for nearly two decades before the Mariners finally ended the streak in 2009.

Earl Marriott has had a stranglehold of the trophy since then, winning three straight – including a 28-0 shutout win last year – and the Mariners are again one of the province’s best AAA senior boys sides. They were ranked fifth in B.C. heading into a Friday contest against No. 2 Oak Bay.

But despite the team’s recent success, Marriott head coach Adam Roberts – a Semiahmoo alum – knows his team has a long way to go to catch the Totems’ overall mark.

Semiahmoo won the rivalry game each year from 1995 until 2008, and won 19 of 20 overall prior to Marriott’s current streak. Prior to ‘09, the Mariners’ lone win was way back in 1994.

“Overall, Semi leads us 19 to four (in Sandcastle Cup wins). That just shows you the strength of their program, and the kind of success they’ve had,” Roberts said. “We’ve got a long way to go before we even it up, but we’re working on it.”

On the other side of the field, the Semiahmoo Totems will be looking to regain a foothold in the series, after dominating it for so many years.

“We’d really like to win that trophy back. It’s one of the biggest games of the year – a real grudge match,” said Totems Grade 12 captain Dylan Kiselbach, who was in Grade 8 the last time Semi won the Cup.

“It’s very important for our school, and our team. We want to win it.”

Kiselbach knows his team is considered the underdog heading into today’s tilt, but expects that his teammates will give the Mariners a good run, nonetheless.

“We’re definitely the underdogs, sure, but I still think we have the talent to pull this off. There’ll be some nerves at first – everybody always feels the pressure – but we’ll be very competitive,” he said.

But regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s game, which is also a Fraser Valley league contest, Roberts knows the game will be an exciting one, as fans from both schools traditionally come out in droves, lining the slope west of the rugby pitch with painted faces and school-coloured flags.

And it’s often been a little rowdy. In recent years, students – often wear team-coloured capes and little else – have streaked the field, and in 2010, with more than 1,000 fans in attendance, fans threw plastic water bottles and other projectiles at each other, which resulted in a number of fights, a few of which had to be broken up by RCMP members in attendance.

But those instances aside, Roberts said the usual atmosphere makes it fun for the players and coaches, alike.

“I don’t know what it is about the Sandcastle Cup that gets everybody so pumped up – even students who don’t care about rugby – but I love it. It’s unbelievable,” he said. “

“The whole school – both schools – get behind it, and it’s fun to be a part of. I wish more of our sports were like this.”

Kiselbach agreed, and suggested the raucous atmosphere might be a benefit to his squad, considering they’re playing on their home field.

“You want to put on a good show for all your fans that show up,” he said. “It makes you want to hit that much harder, and play that much better.”

The game begins at 4:15 p.m.

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