For much of last week in Port Alberni, the Elgin Park Orcas played the role of giant-killers at BC High School Girls AAA Rugby Championships, knocking off the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds en route to the title game.
But in the find of the 25-team event, the fairy-tale run ended for the sixth-seeded Orcas, who lost 15-10 to the top-ranked G.P. Vanier Towhees.
The game was as close as the one-try differential would indicate, Elgin Park Orcas longtime coach Johan Mynhardt said.
“It was a great game, anybody’s game,” he said. “It was a really close game, and we scored our last try right near the end of the game. If we’d had another five minutes, who knows what might have happened.
“We did the best that we could with the horses we had in the race – but you just can’t win every race.”
Elgin fell behind early in the championship tilt, as the Towhees – playing just an hour and a half from their home turf – got a pair of early tries from Taya Gordon and Danelle Campbell.
Elgin nearly got on the board themselves in the first half, but a try late in the half was disallowed, Mynhardt explained, when the referee determined that the ball had not been touched down in the end zone.
And though neither he nor his team agreed with the controversial call, Mynhardt refused to dwell on it or use it as an excuse for the loss.
“He’s the guy in charge and we abide by his decision,” Mynhardt said.
Early in the second half, Vanier went up 15-0 on a try from winger Kristine Osachuk, at which point the Peninsula side finally returned fire.
The Orcas scored two tries to make it 15-10, but that’s as close as they would get before the final whistle blew.
Though disappointed not to leave Vancouver Island with the provincial banner, Mynhardt was still thrilled with his team’s performance, especially considering they were one of the younger teams in the tournament. The Orcas had a number of Grade 8 players on its roster – many of which played in the final game – and were led by Grade 11 captain Taiid Haines-Young.
The team followed Haines-Young’s lead all weekend, Mynhardt said.
She played a critical role in Elgin’s double-overtime win over the top-ranked Cowichan Thunderbirds in quarter-finals.
With the score tied 15-15, it was Haines-Young’s kick that gave her team the upset victory, sending them into semifinals, where they shut out the No. 2 Yale Lions, 10-0.
“What a phenomenal performance from that kid,” Mynhardt beamed. “In double overtime, with a kick to win the game – the pressure of that moment is over the top, and she stepped up and drilled that ball right down the middle (of the uprights).
“We would not have done as well as we did this weekend if it wasn’t for her.”
Elgin Park was not the only South Surrey team to find itself in a championship game last weekend.
In the Tier 2 bracket of senior girls AAA provincials – also played in Port Alberni – the Semiahmoo Totems defeated top-seeded Houston Secondary 27-5 in the final.
Prior to the tournament, Semiahmoo coach Dave Kaye told Peace Arch News that he thought his team might be in tough at the event, because they’d be missing a handful of key player due to other commitments.
As it was, the team played without six regulars, but did not skip a beat, defeating three higher seeded teams – Penticton, Walnut Grove and Houston.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” Kaye said. “We just kept getting better and better. We played Houston last year and they absolutely shelled us, so it was nice.”
Like their Elgin Park counterparts, the Totems are also a young squad, with just one senior player, Grade 12 captain Selena Tobin.
“We will definitely miss her,” Kaye said. “But we should continue to get better. Our goal last year was just to make it to provincials, and our goal this year was to finish higher than we went in. Now, we’ll work towards getting into the Tier 1 (bracket) next year.”