Adam Roberts is one step closer to rugby retirement.
A week before the Sandcastle Cup – the annual senior boys rivalry game between the Semiahmoo Totems and Earl Marriott Mariners – Roberts, who coaches EMS but played for Semiahmoo as a teenager, joked to Peace Arch News that he would retire once he helped Marriott even the historical score, which still leans heavily in favour of the Totems.
Semiahmoo led the decades-long series 22-10 until this week. It’s 22-11 now.
On Tuesday afternoon, Roberts’ Mariners defeated the Totems 41-17 to keep control of the Sandcastle Cup, which they last won in 2015, but hasn’t been contested in the last two years, nor in 2013. EMS has now won 10 over the last dozen or so seasons, with Semi winning in 2014.
“It’s very exciting to continue this legacy at Earl Marriott. We’ve had some great Sandcastle wins (over the years) and we just wanted to continue that,” said EMS captain Kevin Stewart after the game.
Though they ended up winning rather decisively, the game did not start out in the Mariners’ favour. In fact, it was Semiahmoo who opened the scoring with an early try, and though their crosstown rivals quickly came back with a try of their own, a penalty kick tacked on two more points to the Totems’ total.
As the first half wore on, however, Marriott – which plays in a new premier-level circuit in league play, alongside Carson Graham, Shawnigan Lake, St. George’s and Oak Bay – applied offensive pressure and spent more and more time near the Semiahmoo goal line, breaking through on occasion.
In the second half, the trend continued, as the Mariners tacked on a few more tries – including two on long runs – to extend the lead.
And though they ended up winning by a double-digit margin, Roberts said the game was far from a cakewalk, and made especially difficult once Semiahmoo took the lead in the opening minutes.
“You get behind the eight ball and it becomes pretty hard. Those guys played their butts off. You look at (Semiahmoo captain) Josh Tweed – he probably made 30 tackles by himself,” Roberts said.
“That’s what’s so great about the Sandcastle Cup – everybody gets up for these games, and the energy and emotion changes things and makes it tough… I’ve seen Semi play this year and they haven’t brought that kind of emotion, that kind of energy, but every time we play them, it’s that kind of game.”
Both Roberts and Stewart said they thought their team’s size and tackling ability made a difference in the win.
“We just have a load of big guys – Isaac (Kelly) and (Ryan) Renkers… they’re tough to bring down,” Roberts said.
Though the emotion from both sides was evident – the ‘thud’ of more than a few tackles could be heard from a fair distance away, resulting in loud cheers, or grimaces, from spectators sitting hillside – Totems coach Mike McMartin admitted that it wasn’t enough to pull off the upset.
“They’re much more disciplined and structured than we are right now. We’re still trying to find out game and they’re much more established,” said McMartin of his team, which is only in its first season back at the triple-A Tier 1 level after two years away.
“Emotion is going to get you so far, but structure will win out in the end, and that’s what happened today.”
Result aside, he was thrilled to have re-established the Sandcastle Cup rivalry.
“First thing, after a two-year hiatus it’s just great having the boys back on the field again,” he said.
“Both teams have some very good players and they squared off today. There were several times where our biggest and best were going (head to head) with their biggest and best, and it was a great battle.”
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