It’s said in sports that a tie is like kissing your sister.
But for members of Earl Marriott Secondary’s senior boys rugby team, Saturday’s 22-22 deadlock against the arch rival Yale Lions was somehow even worse.
The Mariners ended up losing the game – which decided third-place at B.C. Senior Boys AAA Rugby Championships – on a tie-breaker, thus leaving them just off the podium.
Heading into provincials last week, EMS coach Adam Roberts had stated his team’s goal was a top-three finish. They were the tournament’s No. 4 seed, and had never finished higher than fourth overall in team history.
Now, they’ll have to wait another year. And Roberts was taking no solace in the fact that they essentially tied for third place. Yale was awarded third by virtue of scoring more converted tries that Marriott.
“You win or you lose, there’s no silver lining,” Roberts said.
“I didn’t even know what the tiebreaker rules were – I never took the time to read them because ties just never happen in rugby.”
The back-and-forth affair was one of the most exciting of the Abbotsford-hosted tournament – far more dramatic than the gold-medal match, in which Shawnigan Lake rolled to an eighth straight BC title with a lopsided win over St. George’s.
The Marriott-Yale game was a back-and-forth affair, and some of the game’s turning points were feats rarely seen in rugby.
Marriott jumped out to a 14-7 lead in the first half, and were primed to take a seven-point lead into halftime, until Yale attempted a late kick.
The kick ricocheted off the crossbar, and bounced to the left – right into the hands of Yale’s centre, who caught it and ran the ball in for a try, to make the score just 14-12 at the break.
“A play like that, you either make the kick, or you miss it and the play’s basically dead. It was a total fluke,” Roberts explained.
Yale rallied in the second half, and led EMS 17-14 with eight minutes to go, but a late Marriott converted try gave the Peninsula side a 22-17 lead with just one-and-a-half minutes remaining. A few more plays, and perhaps a kick out of bounds by the Mariners was all that was required to run out the clock.
“We just had to ice the puck,” Roberts said, stealing some hockey parlance.
Yale, however, came back in the waning seconds and scored a try right in the middle of the field – meaning the would-be conversion kick would be a relatively easy one, right in front of the uprights.
But the game would stay knotted at 22-22, after Marriott’s Tyson Smith charged out and blocked the kick – a play so rare in rugby that Roberts had never seen it in all his years involved in the sport.
“When they were lining up to kick it, I just thought, ‘Dammit, this is it. We’re gonna lose,’ and then that happened. I couldn’t believe it,” Roberts explained, adding that he hadn’t told the team to attempt a block. “You just don’t see plays like that.”
The game was then sent to sudden-death overtime – two five-minute periods, if necessary – and the first five minutes were uneventful.
In the second OT frame, EMS had a chance to win it on a Liam Morrison drop-goal, but his kick glanced off the post.
“I’ve never seen a game like this before, ever. It was absolutely insane,” Roberts said.
“As a sports fan watching it, the game had everything you could possibly imagine, but it just sucks to be on the losing end.