Chalk one up for the Lions.
After years of losing to the Earl Marriott Mariners in the finals of the Fraser Valley AAA senior boys rugby championships, Abbotsford’s Yale Lions finally got the better of their South Surrey rivals, winning the title game Wednesday night, 14-10.
“It was everything you’d want in a rugby game. There was so much emotion, so much energy and we held the play for most of it, too. On territory, on possession, we dominated, but we couldn’t finish – the only place we didn’t dominate was on the scoreline,” said longtime EMS coach Adam Roberts. “It was devastating to lose that one.”
Earl Marriott won a string of Fraser Valley titles between 2009 and 2013, beating Yale in the finals four of those years.
It was Yale’s impenetrable defence that won them this year’s banner, Roberts admitted.
“We were camped out on their goal line for 20 minutes, but we just couldn’t score. We had three tries held up. They were like rabid dogs out there,” he said. “And when they finally broke our pressure, they got a scrum at our 40 (yard line) and went in and scored.
“There have been years before where I don’t think we’ve deserved to win the (Valley final) and we’ve beat them. They got one on us this time.”
After a scattered first half that saw misplaced passes derail attacks by both teams, the Lions got on the board with a penetrating run from Daniel Cercel. Matt Fraser converted to give the Lions a 7-0 lead, but Marriott quickly responded with a penalty kick from Tyson Smith to narrow the Yale advantage at the break.
The second half saw Yale play shorthanded due to a penalty and an ejection, which led to Marriott’s sustained pressure.
“The boys had a lot of adversity in that game and really played out of their skin,” Yale coach Doug Primrose said after the game. “It’s probably one of the best performances I’ve seen from one of our teams that I can remember.”
In addition to a penalty kick and conversion from Smith, Earl Marriott’s only other points in the contest came from a try by Kevin Johnston.
Though they’ve now finished second at back-to-back Fraser Valley championships – last year, EMS lost to Robert Bateman in the finals – Roberts surmised that, perhaps, his team took Yale a little too lightly, considering they beat them 33-5 earlier in the season.
“We still played hard, I don’t want to take away anything from either team, but we were probably humbled a little bit,” he said.
“We gave them a pretty good beating the first time, so maybe our guys thought they’d just be able to take this one.
“But if you have to lose, this is a good time to do it, because it’s just made the guys hungry and more focused on B.C.’s.”
Roberts expects his team to head to provincials ranked fourth, while Yale will enter as the third seed.
Private schools – and perennial rugby powerhouses – Shawnigan Lake and St. George’s are ranked first and second, respectively.
Roberts said his team’s goal this year is to finish in the top three, after years of finishing fourth or fifth.
“It’s time for us to make that next step and get onto the podium,” he said.
– with files from Tyler Olsen