South Surrey rugby players shine on national stage

Six win gold at Canadian U18 Sevens championships in Vancouver last weekend.

B.C.'s U18 girls (top) and U18 boys teams celebrate victories last weekend at national sevens championships at BC Place.

B.C.'s U18 girls (top) and U18 boys teams celebrate victories last weekend at national sevens championships at BC Place.

A half-dozen rugby players from the Semiahmoo Peninsula were among those celebrating at BC Place last weekend, after a pair of provincial teams claimed top spot at Canadian Rugby Sevens U18 Championships.

Team BC won both tournaments, which ran concurrently with the World Rugby Sevens series, which drew some of the world’s top players to Vancouver last week.

The U18 boys team included Earl Marriott Secondary’s Wiley Gillette, Matthew Fraser, John Jubenville and Michael Smith – who captained the team – as well as Jared Thind of Southridge.

Elgin Park Secondary’s Tanika Bonneville was the lone local to suit up for B.C.’s gold-medal winning U18 girls side.

The girls’ squad defeated Alberta 17-0 in the championship game Saturday, ending a successful run that saw them give up just one try in the entire five-game tournament.

Earlier in the event, B.C. notched shutout victories over Ontario 1 and Ontario 2 – by scores of 22-0 and 20-0, respectively – and followed that win with a 49-0 win over Newfoundland, and a 29-5 win over Ontario 2 in semifinals.

“Playing at (BC Place) was crazy. It was so loud and the noise just seemed to echo throughout the stadium,” Bonneville told Peace Arch News.

“When we ran onto the field we all had to take a deep breath.”

Bonneville said her team’s size and skill gave them a boost over their competition, adding that winning a recent tournament in Las Vegas – along with the U18 boys  – also gave them confidence heading into the Vancouver event.

“It was an unforgettable experience and a great feeling to make everyone from BC watching proud,” she said.

Immediately after the girls’ victory, B.C.’s boys team took to the field against Ontario 2, and claimed gold with a 17-5 win.

The seven-a-side title was the first-ever for a B.C. U18 team.

In semifinals, B.C. defeated the other Ontario entry, 31-17.

The final was a rematch of an earlier round-robin game – one which was won by Ontario, 20-12.

The first game was a closely contested battle – the teams were separated by just two points at halftime – and the final was no different, with the game staying close until Smith scored a try with four minutes left to push B.C. to victory.

Smith’s scoring play began when he jumped on a loose ball two metres away from the Ontario goal line. Despite having a defender attempting to pull him down, Smith pushed forward and touched the ball down just over the try-line.

“It feels absolutely amazing,” said Smith.

“To be part of the first B.C. boys’ team to take home a Canadian U18 Sevens trophy is something I know we will all truly remember.”