Bayside Shark Corey Wood tries to cut through United Rugby Club tacklers during Saturday’s Div. 1 men’s rugby semifinal, which the Sharks won 54-0. (Don Wright photo)

Bayside Sharks set to battle Abbotsford for men’s rugby title

South Surrey team earns spot in Div. 1 championship with win over United

The Bayside Sharks are headed to the BC Rugby Union finals.

On Saturday, the South Surrey-based Div. 1 men’s side cruised to a 54-0 victory over Coquitlam’s United Rugby Club, thus securing for themselves a berth in this weekend’s final, where they’ll face Abbotsford.

Abbotsford defeated the Surrey Beavers 32-28 in last weekend’s other semifinal match.

“It was a slow start… a bit of a jittery start – we were lacking some precision and accuracy,” said Bayside rugby director Andy Blackburn, who added that the Sharks led 21-0 at halftime before pouring on the offence in the second half.

“We wore them down to the point whereby in the last 20 minutes the floodgates opened and we were able to put up several tries in the last 20 minutes.

“So it was good, but it was far from a perfect performance.”

Unfortunately for Bayside, this Saturday’s lineup of championship games – all scheduled for Burnaby Lake – won’t include a second Sharks team. The club’s second-division men’s side lost 38-5 to Kamloops.

“It was just a bridge too far for them,” Blackburn noted, adding that the Kamloops team is good enough to play in the BCRU’s first division.

Speaking of the first-division Sharks – who will be making their second straight appearance in the Div. 1 finals, after losing to Vancouver Rowing Club last year – Blackburn said he’s optimistic that the team is on an upward trajectory, and will be playing at its best come Saturday afternoon.

“We’re still hoping to peak in time for the final,” he said. “We had this long, extended break through February and March due to the weather, so the second half of our season was interrupted… So we’re just finally getting into our stride.

“I think last year, we peaked too soon and dipped going into the finals and got beat. You could see that coming, because we’d had a severe loss of form. Even though we’d kept winning and got to the final, we were on the downturn. This year, these last five games, we’ve been slowly getting better each week.”

Abby and Bayside met earlier this year, in the last game of the regular season, with the Sharks winning 34-9 to secure top spot in the standings.

Blackburn was quick to point out, however, that the Fraser Valley club was dealing with injuries in that game.

“They were missing two or three key players, who’ve returned to them now. And unfortunately for us, now we’ve picked up a few injuries… We have a few guys in key positions who are 50/50 (to play Saturday),” he said.

Looking on the bright side, Blackburn said this year’s team is better equipped to handle injuries than in past seasons.

“The thing about Bayside this year, that we haven’t had in many, many years, is we’ve got incredible depth, so we can slot in guys seamlessly and not worry,” he said. “I’ll feel bad if any guys miss out, but i don’t think it will affect us because we have such depth.”

That depth has provided the team with a big advantage over the course of the last month and a half, Blackburn noted, as its allowed the coaching staff to substitute fresh players for tired ones in the second half without seeing a downturn in talent on the field.

“We don’t even call them our bench – we call them our finishers,” he said. “We have seven players we can bring on – especially three in our front row – who are as good as our starters, and they’re very impactful. They’re the guys who’ve been tearing up the opposition in the final 30 minutes (of games).

“Our opponents, they’ve got guys who are tired, and we’re bringing on these strong, power runners and it’s having a huge impact.”



sports@peacearchnews.com

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