Mariners beat Handsworth, advance to B.C. rugby semifinals

South Surrey senior boys team to play South Delta in provincials in Abbotsford

And then there were four.

The top-seeded Earl Marriott Mariners senior boys rugby team advanced to semifinals of 2019 B.C. high school triple-A rugby championships Wednesday night in Abbotsford, after grinding out a 26-7 victory over the eighth-ranked Handsworth Royals.

The game wasn’t a by-the-book victory for the talented Marriott crew, however, as they had to hold off a hard-charging Handsworth squad in the opening minutes until they were able to gain their bearings and put some points on the board themselves.

“Handsworth was a very tough first-round opponent for us, and we really had to weather the storm for the first 20 minutes,” EMS coach Adam Roberts told Peace Arch News.

“We didn’t have much possession, but the team continued to play stanch defence and were able to keep (Handsworth) at bay until we started to open it up and put ourselves on the front foot.”

The Mariners – who spent the regular season playing in the five-team quad-A premier league before dropping back to triple-A for playoffs – will now play South Delta in semifinals at 6 p.m. today at Abbotsford’s Rotary Stadium. The other semifinal is an all-Abbotsford affair, with No. 2 Yale and No. 6 Robert Bateman squaring off.

Takoda and Talon McMullin – who led EMS to a last-minute comeback victory over Yale in Fraser Valley finals last week – each had tries against the Royals Wednesday afternoon, while the Mariners’ other two tries were notched by Simon Radcliffe and Keegan Alves.

Despite the last-ditch effort to win the Fraser Valley final – the Mariners tied the game with less than 30 seconds left and won it on a kick with no time left – and the early-game struggles Wednesday, Roberts wasn’t worried about his crew’s play. In fact, he said the roadblocks they’ve hurdled of late should only help them as they aim for the school’s first-ever senior boys triple-A provincial rugby banner.

“This year’s Earl Marriott squad has faced plenty of adversity and we will continue to get better,” he said.

The winners of today’s semifinal matches will get Friday off, and hit the field again Saturday in the championship game, which is set for Abbotsford’s Rotary Stadium.

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