Surrey Beaver Paul Kelly (right) uses a little bit of brute force against Graham Rogers of the Bayside Sharks during a men’s Division 1 rugby game at Sullivan Heights Park Saturday.

Surrey Beaver Paul Kelly (right) uses a little bit of brute force against Graham Rogers of the Bayside Sharks during a men’s Division 1 rugby game at Sullivan Heights Park Saturday.

Sharks reclaim Onion Cup rugby title

Bayside wins annual rugby grudge match, 38-26 over Surrey Beavers

The Onion Cup title is back in the hands of the Bayside Sharks.

On Saturday, Bayside’s top men’s rugby side defeated their Surrey Beavers rivals 38-26 at Sullivan Park, winning the annual grudge match that’s been renewed in recent years after lying dormant for more than a decade.

“We lost it last year, so it’s really good for us to get that trophy back – and it means we didn’t have to eat anymore onions,” said Bayside men’s coach Brad Edmondson, referring to the game’s tradition that requires the losing side to eat a rather unappetizing post-game meal.

The Onion Cup tilt between the two Surrey-based rugby clubs was created years ago as a way to honour the memory of Paul Iannone – nicked Onion – who played for both clubs.

The annual grudge match eventually fizzled out, however, as both men’s teams never matched up against each other on the schedule, due to moving on to different leagues – Bayside played at the premier level, while the Beavers were first-division club.

The two clubs played a seven-a-side game in 2008 with the Cup on the line, as well as the occasional third-division game, but the rivalry’s been renewed in recent years, now that the Sharks have dropped down to the first division.

The win over the Beavers was the second in a row for Bayside, which prior to its two-game win streak was mired in a quite a slump, having been shut out in back-to-back games to Abbotsford earlier in March.

Prior to the win over Surrey, the Sharks defeated United Rugby Club 50-21 at Hume Park in News Westminster. They now have a .500 record, with eight wins and eight losses. They currently sit third in the first-division standings, behind only Abbotsford and first-place Meralomas.

The two wins have the Sharks’ playing with a little extra swagger in their steps, Edmondson said.

“It’s definitely an improvement, and our confidence is back and probably as high as it’s ever been,” he said. “It’s great that we’ve been able to come back and have managed to get to .500.”

The difference between the last two games and the two prior to that has primarily been the play of the team’s young players, Edmondson said.

“They’ve just started playing with a lot more heart that they ever have,” he said. “And they’re starting to understand all the things we’ve been drilling into them since (January), and sometimes the game plan, it just clicks.

“It’s really good for the coaches to see what these guys are capable of.”

Against Surrey, Graham Rogers was named the man of the match, and Edmondson lauded his effort.

“He was kicking real well for us, and he had a great game.”

The game against United – the first division’s last-place team – did not get off to a great start, as the South Surrey side fell behind 16-8 at halftime.

The second half, however, was a different story, as the Sharks piled up 42 points in 40 minutes to earn the win.

And while Edmondson didn’t single out any one player as the offensive catalyst – “It was a real team effort, it really was,” he said – he did suggest veteran Pete Clifford, a player/coach with this year’s team who is a former league-scorer at the premier level, had a lot to do with the win.

“He doesn’t play too often for us as he’s moving into the coaching side of things, but we put him in and he really sparked us,” Edmondson said.

“He managed to bring everybody together and calm them down, and they just went out and started scoring.”

A terse halftime speech from the coaching staff also had the desired effect, Edmondson noted.

“We needed them to realize what they were capable of doing, and the coaching staff helped them realize that,” he said. “We went out there in the second half and just started to execute the simple things. They didn’t have a lot of energy left in the tank, and we had lots.”

The Sharks don’t hit the field over Easter weekend, but return to action April 11, when they host Meralomas at South Surrey Athletic Park.