Mariners take aim at Yale for Valley rugby banner

Earl Marriott
Earl Marriott's senior boys rugby teams experience gained in Japan earlier this month will help them in their quest for a fifth straight Fraser Valley title.
— image credit: Don Wright photo

When the Earl Marriott Mariners’ senior boys rugby team hits the pitch today against Abbotsford’s Yale Lions, they’ll have more on their mind than just winning another Fraser Valley banner.

They’ll also be looking to get a years-old monkey off their back.

Earl Marriott has won four straight Fraser Valley rugby titles – including three straight over Yale, from 2009 to 2011 – but members of this year’s team have never beaten the Lions, dating back to their junior days, said EMS coach Adam Roberts.

“The guys have had a long history against Yale, but haven’t had much luck,” he said. “Now, they need to step up and prove that they’re a championship team.”

The game is set for today (Thursday), 3:45 p.m. at South Surrey Athletic Park.

In addition to bragging rights and a new banner for the school gym, Thursday’s winner will also be assured a favorable seeding at provincials, which are set for UBC later this month. Both teams have already qualified for the tournament.

Roberts’ confidence in his side is buoyed by their performance in Japan earlier this month – the Mariners placed ninth at the prestigious Sanix World Rugby Youth Invitational tournament, which is the best a Canadian team has ever finished.  The previous best performance by a Canadian side at the 16-team Sanix event was last year, when Vancouver Island’s Shawnigan Lake placed 10th.

“The guys know they can do it now, because they did so well in Japan against teams that were better than Yale,” explained the longtime Mariners coach.

“The Japan experience was huge for us. We know how to beat these guys, and we know we can do it.”

If Earl Marriott – which won last year’s Fraser Valley banner with a win over Abbotsford’s Robert Bateman Secondary – is to have success against Yale, Roberts said they’ll have to stand up to their Abby competitors’ physical style.

“Yale is one of those teams that’s filled with big, tough Abbotsford boys, so we’re going to have to match them physically,” he said.

“We’re a team that can really run and gun, but we’ll have to be able to play physical, too.”

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