All four British Columbia age-grade rugby teams medaled at the 2011 National Festival Sunday, with the Men’s Under-18 team and Men’s Under-16 team crowned national champs. The BC Women’s Under-18 team captured silver and the U16 BC-2 Men’s team took home bronze.
“It was really good. The boys all played really well and it was a great team effort,” B.C. head coach Jeff Williams said.
The most heated rivalry in Canadian rugby took centre stage on Sunday afternoon in the Men’s U18National Final, with reigning champs Ontario taking on British Columbia.
The highly anticipated championship final lived up to expectations with B.C. winger and Semiahmoo Secondary grad Liam Murphy-Burke (Bayside RFC) scoring the game-winning intercept try to lift B.C. to a 38-33 victory.
“That game may have been great for the fans, but the coaching staff were on the sidelines close to having heart attacks,” said a relieved Williams.
“That is how finals should be, with both sides putting everything into it and the game going right until the end.”
In a match that saw the lead change hands on several occasions, Ontario drew first blood to go up 5-0 when their prop Curtis Lawson barrelled over for a try. The score was converted by Lucas Hammond.
Ontario were up 21-14 at the half but let B.C. back into the game early in the second frame when scrum half Jorden Best (Abbotsford RFC) broke through for a try, with BC tacking on a conversion and a penalty.
The final 20 minutes of play were an entertaining display of high-scoring rugby with the lead changing hands three times.
With seven minutes to play, Ontario was in the driving seat with a 33-31 lead and were pressing deep inside B.C.’s twenty-two. Ontario swung the ball wide and a miss-pass move turned disastrous as B.C. winger Murphy-Burke intercepted and ran the ball back for the game winning try. B.C. full back Connor Hunter (Abbotsford RFC) converted for the 38-33 score line and his side managed to fend off any further attacks from their Eastern foes.
“You have to give credit to Ontario because they posed a lot of problems for us,” said Williams.
“Their 8-9-10 combination was dangerous and caused us to make a lot of mistakes. That was a close game just as we expected, but our guys played well and they deserved it.”
Quinton Willms and Dan Lee also played on the U18 squad alongside Murphy-Burke, to help capture the gold.
Williams noted all the U18 players really came together to play their best.
“The coaching staff was just blown away by the camaraderie among the guys,” he said.
“It was probably one of the best groups I’ve ever coached.”
In U16 rugby action, the B.C. U16 gold squad went undefeated throughout the entire tournament. Calixto Martinez, Alex Klassen and Shane Dagg were on the team that trounced Newfoundland 88-5 in the Championship Final.
Nick Collett played with the B.C. U16 blue squad that won the bronze medal, beating Ontario 22-17 in an overtime thriller; the two B.C. U16 squads met in the semi-final, with the Gold team winning 29-17.
Silver is nothing to sneeze at either. Sarah Gordon, Jordan Palesch and Meghan Wellis came home with silver medals with the U18 Women’s squad.
B.C. went undefeated in in round-robin play, but fell to Ontario 34-18 in the final.