Victoria, BC – December 9, 2018: The 2018 BC Rugby Junior Boys’ Club titles were decided this weekend, with UBCOB Ravens securing the U16 title and Castaway Wanderers retaining their hold on the U19 title. Despite wet and windy conditions that intensified through the day, crowds were treated to some incredibly exciting rugby that showcased some real future potential from BC athletes.
Stars of the Canadian Sevens and XVs teams, Harry Jones and Ray Barkwill, were on the sidelines watching the young players fight tooth and nail. Both were full of praise for the players and teams during presentation ceremonies, commending the displays of skill and tenacity, and offered words of encouragement for those players looking to go all the way to the top. Could the next decade see some of the bright young faces from these clubs stepping up to the world stage? That’s another question for another time. For now, here’s a recap of Sunday’s action.
U16s – Championship Match
James Bay AA vs. UBCOB Ravens RFC
A fascinating match up from the outset; one side with home-field advantage, the other with a track record for exciting second-half comebacks. Almost from the word go, you could see how much this meant to the players from either side, a combustible mixture of nerves and passion fuelling plenty of chest beating and motivational cries. Neither team was shy of getting in the others face and the first 10 minutes of the match saw plenty of too and fro movement on the field, the odd nervous handling preventing either team from striking quickly. James Bay used their heavy hitting pack to punch holes in the Ravens’ defensive lines, but the Mainland side worked well as a unit and quelled the attacks. The hosts were tested for a long period too, camped out near their own try line as the Ravens desperately tried to inch across and score. At half-time, James Bay had managed to pull ahead by a single try to lead 5-0, the game still very much in the balance.
Come the second half, it was the Ravens who started the brighter of the two sides, knowing they had to get themselves on to the scoreboard and stay in contention. They managed just that, crashing over the try line and slotting the conversion to lead 7-5. What followed was a nerve-wracking 10 minutes of play that kept hearts pounding and heads guessing. Battling their way up the field, James Bay secured a penalty within kicking range and opted to go for the points, their No. 10 slotting the kick with great composure. Trailing by one point, the Ravens dug deep, knowing that they didn’t travel all this way just to roll over. Pressing up into James Bay’s 22, they set about throwing everything (including the kitchen sink) at their opponents, Jacob Merkur finally squeezing across the line and adding the conversion for good measure. With minutes left on the clock, the game stood at 14-8 in favour of the Ravens.
Roars of encouragement from parents and friends on the sidelines filled the air as James Bay took the restart, knowing that this was a do or die moment. Gathering possession, the ball was shipped wide to number 11, Kynan Smith, who charged down the wing as fast as his legs would carry him, desperately evading the outstretched fingertips of Ravens’ defenders. As Smith slid across the line to score, huge cheers erupted from the fans, but one final hurdle remained. A challenging conversion in blustery conditions was needed to win the game and the silence that fell on MacDonald Park deafening. Despite a valiant effort from Owen Sparshu, the kick failed to find its target and the final whistle pierced the air, immediately followed by elated screams from the young UBCOB Ravens team. A quite incredible end to a match that had seemed a near stalemate for so long. UBCOB Ravens 14 – 13 James Bay AA.
While the James Bay team were understandably deflated in the aftermath of the game, it is important to note all of the hard work that they put in on the field and commend them for their performance. They played an essential part in a thrilling climax and showed they will continue to be title contenders for years to come. But on the day, it was the visitors from the mainland who lifted the trophy and secured the title of 2018 U16 Junior Boy’s Club Champions.
U19s – Championship Match
Castaway Wanderers RFC vs UBCOB Ravens RFC
By the time the U19 Final was getting underway, the heavens had well and truly opened, adding a slippery ball and soft underfoot conditions to the challenge faced by both teams. Ravens and CW each boasted impressive form in the regular season, demonstrating an ability to control the game and launch devastating attacks from both their back line and packs. It was CW that got off to the better start though, getting on the scoreboard in the opening minutes of the game and showing just how much of a threat they could be in open play. The Ravens took longer to settle, showing plenty of tenacity but unable to control the tide of striped shirts that surged again and again. Indeed the first half of the match was all Castaway’s, running in an unanswered 5 tries to lead 29-0 at the half. Ravens were neither short of skill nor muscle, but handling errors exacerbated by the wet conditions prevented them from executing their attacks in full and CW were more than happy to capitalise on these mistakes.
Come the second half, the match was much more even. Raven’s opened the scoring and looked to be settling much more, stringing together several phases of play and opening up gaps in the CW defensive line. With the wind and rain impacting tactical decisions, there was a lot of crash ball tactics and some excellent runs, particularly from CW’s Elvis Duru and Zach Monckton and Raven’s Basil Schincariol and Jason Bourne. Despite Raven’s clawing back at the scoreboard, CW remained in overall control and added to their own tally, continuing to keep their opponents fighting against a 20+point cushion.
In the deteriorating conditions, both sides played admirably in the second half. Indeed, taken in isolation, there was just a single point difference between the two teams. However, having secured the first half of the fixture so convincingly, CW were able to close out the match in relative comfort, eventually winning 49-21. Credit to both teams for delivering quality rugby in challenging weather and showing flair and skill right across the pitch. Now CW are back-to-back winners of the U19 Junior Boys’ Club Championship title, will they make it three next year? That’s a long way off, so we won’t be making any predictions quite yet.
However, a total of 19 of BC athletes, including may from this weekend’s action, will be pulling on the Maple Leaf jersey and representing their country as part of the Canadian Men’s U18 Team Winter Tour at the end of this month. We wish all the players the very best of luck in their matches and look forward to seeing their progression in years to come.
BC Rugby would like to say a huge thank you to all players, staff, volunteers and parents from both teams for the work you have put in over the season. We hope you agree with us that the two finals today were a fine display of the talented young rugby players we have in this Province. A special thanks to James Bay AA for hosting all the action this weekend and the contributions from several members of the De Goede family.