Earl Marriott’s Cole Guolo gets tackled by a Cowichan opponent during Saturday’s first-round game

Mariners win big in first round of rugby provincials

No. 3-ranked Earl Marriott in quarter-finals Wednesday against Robert Bateman Timberwolves; Elgin Park and Semiahmoo lose in first round

Only one of three Semiahmoo Peninsula teams emerged unscathed from the first round of B.C. High School Senior Boys AAA Rugby Championships last weekend.

The Earl Marriott Mariners – ranked No. 3 in the province heading into the tournament – coasted to victory with relative ease, defeating No. 14-seeded Cowichan, 71-5 at Brentwood College (Mill Bay) on Vancouver Island on Satellite Saturday, the aptly named first round in which games are staged at sites throughout B.C. Subsequent rounds now move to Abbotsford’s Exhibition Park.

Next up for the Mariners is a quarter-final date Wednesday with the No. 6-ranked Robert Bateman Timberwolves, who defeated EMS the last time the two sides faced off.

And while the team is currently riding high, Marriott head coach Adam Roberts said Monday he was preaching caution to his troops, lest they start taking their competition too lightly.

“The boys are very much looking forward to quarter-finals,” Roberts said.

“(But) we cannot be complacent. We need everyone to step up and raise their own game to reach the next level. I’m excited for what lies ahead, and it’s time for the boys to step up. This is where champions come to play.”

Their recent loss to Bateman – whom the Mariners beat in last year’s Fraser Valley finals – is still fresh in their minds, added Roberts, who called Wednesday’s tilt “a game of redemption.”

Among the Mariners’ many try-scorers in Saturday’s high-scoring game was Colton Killoran, while Isaac Maslin also had one, plus two conversions. Colin Stonier was also impressive kicking the ball, completing seven of nine conversion attempts.

But while the Mariners cruised to their first win at the senior boys’ tourney, both the Elgin Park Orcas and Semiahmoo Totems were not as lucky.

Both teams, by virtue of their bottom seedings, faced near-impossible odds in the first round, as the No. 15 Orcas lost 76-7 to No. 2-seeded Shawnigan Lake – the province’s four-time defending champions – while 16th-ranked Semiahmoo was blanked 67-0 by the tournament’s top-seeded St. George’s Saints.

Unlike recent years, in which at least one first-round upset by a lower-seeded team was almost a guarantee – there have been five such first-round contests since 2010 – this year’s opening slate featured no surprises; the top eight teams all advanced to the second round.

“We knew it was going to be very tough game, and we basically knew what was going to happen,” said Elgin Park coach Tom Myring.

And though the loss stung, Myring said it did little to knock his team’s confidence, or excitement at being back at provincials for the first time since 2008.

“It’s been a long time,” Myring said. “The guys are excited. We’re just going to keep working hard.

“That’s the thing about this team – they play with a lot of heart, and they never give up. That’s how they played (Saturday).

“Shawnigan came out hard early, but we had a couple goal-line stands, and played good defence at times. They never gave up.”

Outside-centre Dax Moir had the lone try for Elgin Park on Saturday.

Both the Orcas and Totems still have three games remaining, and can finish as high as ninth in the 16-team tournament, if they win all remaining games.

Myring said the goal is to finish higher than they started the week.

“Finishing in the top 10 would be great, obviously, but if we can finish better than (15th), that’s the goal,” he said.

“We just have to keep working on our defence. We are pretty sound on offence – we have some pretty quick backs – but if we can play good defensively, I think we can put up some points.”

Next up for the Orcas is a second-round game Wednesday against Courtenay’s G.P. Vanier Towheees, who entered provincials ranked 10th. They lost Saturday to No. 7 West Vancouver, 39-7.

The game kicks off at 2 p.m.

Semiahmoo, meanwhile, will face off Wednesday against No. 9 Carson Graham, historically one of the province’s powerhouse squads; they lost to Shawnigan in last year’s championship game, and won it all in 2008.

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