Earl Marriott’s Thomas Choi tries to pull away from a Yale defender during Thursday’s game.

Earl Marriott Mariners win fifth straight Valley rugby title

Three South Surrey schools – Semiahmoo, Elgin Park and Earl Marriott – will compete at provincial championships

“Wow.”

That was, in one word, how Earl Marriott Mariners senior boys rugby coach Adam Roberts chose, in the moments after his team had won its fifth-straight Fraser Valley rugby banner, to sum up the 21-16 win over the arch-rival Yale Lions Thursday afternoon.

Roberts had good reason to be nearly speechless. After all, his team had just captured its fifth consecutive AAA boys Valley title, and finally beat a Yale team they had never got the better of, dating back to their junior-rugby days, and even to Grade 8, when most of the current Yale team played for William A. Fraser Middle School.

“And they got us then, too,” said a smiling Colton Killoran after the game.

For Roberts, the win was an emotional one, and he took a minute or two after the game to compose himself before celebrating with his team.

“When you watch these guys go into battle, and come out on the losing end time and time again, you know they’re hurting because they can’t find a way to pull out those victories,” Roberts explained.

“And I tell the boys all the time, ‘just stay in the fight, just keep swinging, and eventually good things will happen.’ I think any other team would’ve backed down, but they never gave up.”

The game, held at South Surrey Athletic Park, got off to a slightly shaky start for the Mariners, who controlled much of the play in the early going, yet still found themselves trailing early.

Heading into halftime, they were down 14-7, but made a strong push in the second half.

Roberts credits lessons learned on team’s recent trip to Japan – where they faced some of the top youth sides in the world – with aiding in the comeback.

“We were (coming from behind) and dealing with adversity the entire time we were there,” Roberts said.

After taking the lead midway through the second half, the Mariners had to hold on to their slim lead in the game’s final 10 minutes as Yale pushed to tie the score. The Abby squad got to within inches of doing so, but on a try attempt, the ball-carrier stepped out of bounds at the goal line.

“He just stepped out right before he put the ball down. He felt the pressure from our guys coming across, and hey, sometimes you get a little bit of luck,” Roberts said.

The Mariners will now prepare for provincials, which begin May 25. Marriott will head into the tournament as the No. 3 seed and will play Mount Douglas on Day 1, in Victoria.

Each year, Roberts says it’s his team’s goal to finish as high, or higher, than they entered the tournament. As a top-3 seed, that makes this year’s task a tough one, but the veteran coach is still confident.

“Our goal is to be the best public school. every year, that’s our goal. and this year, I don’t think there’s anything holding us back from that,” he said.

“But bring on (four-time defending champion) Shawnigan, bring on Carson Graham, bring on St. George’s – we can stack up to anyone, and our defence is as good as anyone’s in the province.

“We can give anyone a go.”

The Mariners won’t be the only Peninsula squad at provincials, either. For the first time since 2008, the Elgin Park Orcas will join the fray at UBC’s Wolfsen Fields. The Orcas punched their ticket to the B.C. AAA championships after a 25-21 win over the Semiahmoo Totems last week. They’re seeded 15th.

The Semiahmoo Totems also made the final cut for provincials, after winning a win-and-you’re-in game in Kelowna, 52-8 over Mount Boucherie, last week.

They will go into provincials as the 16th, and final, seed.

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