Three South Surrey/Cloverdale senior boys rugby teams will be vying for a provincial title later this month in Abbotsford.
The Earl Marriott Mariners, Semiahmoo Totems and Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers have all punched their ticket to the provincial tournament – which begins May 24 at sites across B.C. and wraps up May 28-31 in Abbotsford.
But before teams can lock horns at BC High School Senior Boys AAA Rugby Championships, the Earl Marriott Mariners have another bit of important business to attend to: successfully defending their Fraser Valley AAA Elite-division banner for a sixth consecutive year.
On Wednesday night – after Peace Arch News’ press deadline – the Mariners were set to face off against the Robert Bateman Timberwolves at Abbotsford’s Rotary Stadium, with the Valley title up for grabs.
The two squads are no strangers to each other, having played twice already this season. EMS edged the T-Wolves in a pre-season contest, and two weeks ago, Bateman earned a measure of revenge by besting their South Surrey rivals 24-12 in the final game of the regular season.
“This is it. The guys don’t want just a little bit of revenge – they want to exact a bunch,” said Marriott head coach Adam Roberts.
The last time the two sides faced off in a Fraser Valley title game was 2012, when EMS edged the Abby squad 7-0.
“We know each other well, and it’s a really awesome rivalry,” Roberts said.
To make it into Wednesday’s final, the Mariners had to defeat Tweedsmuir last week, winning 11-0 in a rainy game Roberts described as “a full-on mudfest.”
With their top-four finishes at Fraser Valleys, both EMS and Tweedsmuir earned a provincial berth, while Semiahmoo – which plays in the AAA Tier 1 division – also secured a spot by virtue of an undefeated season.
Since their Sandcastle Cup victory over Earl Marriott – which returned the Sandcastle Cup to Semi for the first time since 2009 – the Totems have reeled off two playoff wins.
On May 1, they beat South Delta 48-0, and on Monday knocked off the Gleneagle Talons 49-14 to secure their provincial spot.
“We’re just playing so well as a team,” said coach Tom Wilson. “We have guys playing out of position – like Matt Gallagher and Liam (Wilson) – and the guys don’t care who scores.
“There’s nobody who is playing for himself. I’ve never had a team quite like this one before.”
Though they’ve yet to lose a game prior to last month’s Sandcastle Cup, Wilson said that win over EMS has to this point been the most important game of the year.
“That was the biggest turning point,” the coach said.
“That’s the game that made the guys realize that they can beat anybody,”