When the Elgin Park Orcas and Earl Marriott Mariners lined up across the pitch from each other in a senior boys rugby tilt at Elgin Park Secondary Wednesday afternoon, the game was more than just two rivals squaring off.
While local bragging rights were indeed on the line, the game was also a fight between a pair of B.C. top-10 teams, both battling for position as the Fraser Valley playoffs loom just a few weeks away.
The most recent rankings have EMS ranked No. 7 at the AAA level, while the Orcas sit at No. 10.
Both teams had 1-1 win-loss records in league play heading into Wednesday’s tilt – won 46-20 by EMS – though EMS head coach Adam Roberts did admit his team has struggled against high-level competition this year, both in the Fraser Valley and in non-conference games. Last Thursday at home, the Mariners dropped a 50-26 to the Yale Lions, and have also lost games to Brentwood and Oak Bay, both strong teams.
“We’ve had some character games. Nobody is pulling away or quitting,” Roberts said.
Roberts hoped the early-season adversity would spark his team and benefit them
“If you keep fighting and keep punching, eventually you’ll hit them on the nose,” he said.
Elgin Park, meanwhile, has stayed afloat despite injuries to who head coach Mike Jamieson called “a few key guys.”
Jamieson predicted both teams would be strong contenders at provincials.
A top-five or top-six finish at Fraser Valley championships will be required in order to qualify for the B.C. championships.
“I don’t foresee that being an issue for us. We’ve got a pretty strong team, but we can’t really afford anymore injuries,” Jamieson said. “Essentially every game we play now for the next six weeks will be a high-level, competitive game, and win or lose, our guys are going to get fantastic experience and grow from that.”