The high-school rugby season is but a few weeks old, but already one of the most anticipated games of the year is set to hit the pitch.
On Monday afternoon, the Semiahmoo Totems and Earl Marriott Mariners will square off in their annual AAA senior boys grudge match, with the winner laying claim to the Sandcastle Cup trophy.
And this year’s game will have to be one for the ages if it’s to live up to last year’s overtime battle that saw the underdog Totems defeat the Mariners 20-17 in dramatic fashion.
“I know the guys were pretty gutted about last year, and would probably like to exact a measure of revenge this time around,” said Earl Marriott coach Adam Roberts.
“And we’ve got a really good team this year. We’ve been on a tear, so we’ll see what happens.”
The Totems’ victory ended Marriott’s streak of Sandcastle triumphs – until last year, they’d won each game since 2009, with the exception being 2013 when no game was held.
Prior to Earl Marriott’s run of victories, the Sandcastle Cup was owned by Semiahmoo – the Totems won every game from 1995 until 2008, and 19 of 20 overall prior to the Mariners’ 2009 championship.
“When you think about it, the Sandcastle Cup is still more Semi’s than it is ours,” Roberts told Peace Arch News before last year’s game.
And though this year’s game won’t count in the standings for either side – it’s considered an exhibition contest, as the Mariners play league games in the elite tier, while the Totems are in the Tier 1 division – it has always been one of the most anticipated contests on the docket for both sides. In fact, in past seasons, coaches and players from both schools have called the annual rivalry game the biggest match of the year outside of provincial-championship tilts.
Last year’s game very nearly ended in a draw.
After Marriott’s Cali Martinez scored a game-tying try with just seconds to go, the final whistle blew and both teams shook hands as though the game was over.
However, after a brief conference between coaches, officials and captains, it was decided that two five-minute overtime periods would be played.
The only points scored in extra time came in the first five-minute period, when Semiahmoo booted a penalty kick through the uprights for three points. Marriott pressed for a late try as the clock ticked down, but the Totems held them out.
The Sandcastle Cup game will be played at South Surrey Athletic Park, with kickoff set for 4 p.m.