A pair of South Surrey senior boys rugby teams are moving on to provincial championships, after impressive victories on Thursday afternoon – and one may yet enter the B.C. showdown as the regional champ.
The Earl Marriott Mariners defeated Abbotsford’s Robert Bateman Timberwolves 41-17 in Fraser Valley semifinals, and now advance to the championship game against the South Delta Sun Devils, who upset the previously No. 1-ranked Yale Lions in their own semifinal tilt, which was also played Thursday afternoon.
Also Thursday, South Surrey’s Elgin Park Orcas travelled to Cloverdale, where they defeated the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers 33-8 in their do-or-die provincial qualifier, and will join the Mariners in the provincial tournament, which is set for May 30-June 2.
A third Peninsula side, the Semiahmoo Totems, lost their qualifying contest to W.J. Mouat, and will not advance further.
The Mariners – who played the regular season in an elite quad-A/premier division with four other provincial rugby powers – will be playing in the senior boys triple-A Valley final for the ninth consecutive year. The game is scheduled for Abbotsford’s Rotary Stadium at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
“It’s pretty special what this group has accomplished,” said EMS coach Adam Roberts, who ceded head-coaching duties to Bryn Johnson for the semifinal win, as Roberts was on Vancouver Island with Canada’s U20 men’s team where he is an assistant coach.
“These Grade 12s, when they were in Grade 10, they finished ninth in the Fraser Valley, so it’s really amazing what they’ve accomplished, and I’m proud of how far they’ve come – they’ve risen to the occasion.”
Roberts planned to be back for Marriott’s game Wednesday against South Delta – a team, Roberts guessed, EMS hasn’t played at the senior level in about 10 years. In most of Marriott’s Valley final games, the opponent has been either Robert Bateman or Yale. Last year, EMS beat Yale to win the regional title.
“We don’t know much about them except they have a couple of key athletes who came over from their football program,” explained Roberts. “But hopefully with our speed on defence and pressure we should be able to nullify them.”
One of the key Sun Devils in question is outside-centre Michael Calvert, a six-two, 210-pound two-sport athlete who will play quarterback next year with UBC’s football team.
“He’s an absolute game-changer,” Roberts said.
However, the long-time Marriott coach insisted he was confident in his group, which he feels is just now beginning to peak after a long season playing at the quad-A level against Shawnigan Lake, St. George’s. Carson Graham and Oak Bay.
The Mariners did not earn a win against those four during the season, but Roberts said the games did wonders for his team’s overall game.
“A lot of teams might’ve pulled out (of that league) but we thought it was a really good challenge for our guys, and it was great for them,” he said.
“Now, we’re just getting started – that’s what I told the guys. This is just the start of our ascension.”