VANCOUVER - Oak Bay's Castaway Wanderers RFC and the Kitsilano-based Meraloma Rugby Club were finalists in last year's British Columbia's Premier League competition, but neither side were able to repeat the heroics during the 2011-2012 season. Fortunately for two of the province's most storied rugby programs, their First Division sides will have one more opportunity to take home some hardware this Saturday in the Ceili's Cup Final - the Tier One First Division provincial championship.
The Castaway Wanderers nearly came away with a trophy in the Vancouver Island Division One Final last November but fell 13-12 to the Cowichan Piggies.
"A bitterly disappointing loss by one point in the Island final to Cowichan inspired the boys to really put in some hard work and focus right through the Spring," said Castaway Wanderers First Division head coach Lee Windwall.
The CW side has since produced an 11-3 record in province wide competition, tying up the second seed heading into the semifinal rounds of the Ceili's Cup. CW's offence ranked fourth overall with 29.6 points per game but their defence proved crucial in securing a playoff berth as they ranked second allowing just 13.2 points against. Leading the charge have been a number of home grown CW products that guided the Under-19 men's team to an Island championship and were runners-up in the 2011 U19 provincial championship in November.
"The depth and development of the club has born many standout youngsters over the season," Lindwall added. "Players like Mike Dalsin (BC U18), Aden Jack (formerly Canada U17) and Sean Kinsella (BC U18) have come straight from the [CW] Under-19s. Sam Powell and Reece Jones in the back row have been tireless workers along with some other rising talents like John Morris and Mac Poole."
The young players have flourished under the guidance of some veteran CW players including former Canadian international Roger Robinson.
"All of these home grown players have been led superbly by Roger Robinson," Lindwall added. "As one of the 'old guard' Roger is passing on his wisdom and game knowledge directly to his young charges. He is an admirable leader and his example both on and off the field has help forge this team."
The Castaway Wanderers advanced to the provincial final after beating Burnaby Lake in last week's semifinal 24-10. While CW was tying up their berth, the fifth-seeded Meraloma Rugby Club were busy upsetting the top-ranked Capilano RFC at Klahanie Park.
"For the forwards Ray Desjardins (23 yrs) has been tirelessly working away in the tight and has led by example up front," said Meraloma head coach Rohan Brial. "Tighthead prop Eric Harlan has also been a standout for this year. He is only 19 years old and is a big, strong and powerful player that has been working closely with our scrum doctor Angel Cividines. Eric has really taken his technical play to another level."
The Meraloma scrum played a key part in securing an unlikely playoff berth during the 2012 Ceili's Cup competition. With the fourth-seeded UVic Norsemen (7-7) unavailable for the postseason, the fifth-seeded Meralomas took full advantage of the opportunity in front of them and upset the heavily favoured Capilanos (12-2) in last week's semifinal. Meraloma ranked fifth in league scoring averaging 21.1 ppg and their defence ranked sixth overall allowing 29.7 points against. The Meralomas lost both encounters with CW during the regular season falling 47-14 on February 11th and 43-10 on March 24th. But as they proved last Saturday, anything can happen in a one-off playoff match.
"It will be a battle," Brial added heading into this weekend. "The Final is a different game. It will be a game of chess and will be decided by the team who takes their opportunities."
The Ceili's Cup Final is scheduled for 2:00pm kickoff at Klahanie Park in West Vancouver on Saturday, May 12th.
All four provincial finals will be at Klahanie and general admission will be $15 for adults and $10 for youth (under-15).
Women's Adidas Premiership
Harris Memorial Cup Final - Provincial Championship
11:00 AM Burnaby Lake Rugby Club vs Velox Valkyries
Province Wide Third Division
12:30 PM Velox Valhallians vs Kamloops Rugby Club
Ceili's Cup League (Tier 1 First Division)
Ceili's Cup Final - Provincial Championship
2:00 PM Meraloma Rugby Club vs Castaway Wanderers RFC
Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League
Rounsefell Cup Final - Provincial Championship
4:00PM Capilano RFC vs James Bay AA