VANCOUVER - British Columbia's Under-17 men's provincial team defeated the Northern California Youth Rugby Association Varsity on Tuesday evening by a score of 36-34. The NorCal squad nearly drew level in the final play of the match when speedster Ryan Adair broke through for a try, but the ensuing conversion hit the post and saw the visitors come up agonizingly short. The match was the first of a three games series where BC and Northern California will contest for the TrueBlue NorCal Cup.
The BC U15 representative side - made up of Lower Mainland selects - were outmuscled by a talented and larger Northern California Junior Varsity squad 91-5.
TrueBlue BC U17s 36, NorCal Varsity 34
In a highly entertaining and physical matchup, the BC Under-17s clawed their way back from a 24-12 half time deficit to edge the NorCal Varsity squad 36-34. The BC roster was made up of players within the BC Rugby Academy from the Lower Mainland region, with their Vancouver Island counterparts set to host NorCal Varsity on Thursday, June 21st at Uvic's Wallace Field.
U17 Canadian national team player Harjun Gill (Richmond RFC) opened the scoring for BC with a try and fellow national team rep Spencer Miller (Abbotsford RFC) added the extras to put BC up 7-0 early on. Marshall Godfrey responded just minutes later for NorCal and with a conversion from Aden Flynn, the game was level at 7-7.
NorCal would score again before BC's outside centre Tobin Sydney-Smith (Capilano RFC) broke through for a try to make it 14-12. NorCal responded with two more quick scores to take a 24-12 lead into the break.
"[NorCal] were a very good team and they ran hard and countered really well the whole game," said BC Provincial Coach and Development Manager Dave Brown who was at the helm of the U17s on Tuesday. "But credit to our players who came back and kept it close before eventually going ahead," Brown added.
In the second half Sydney-Smith was at it again weaving through the defence to score and with Miller kicking the conversion BC trailed 24-19 early in the second frame. Up next was BC's captain Marshall Fuller (Capilano RFC) who dotted down under the sticks to draw the match level and Gill added the convert for a 26-24 lead.
Connor McRae (Capilano RFC) was next up for BC as the speedy winger crashed into the far corner to make it 31-24. NorCal responded with a try of their own before BC's Karsten Leitner opened the lead back up to 36-29.
In the dying seconds Adair burst through for NorCal's final try but a missed conversion saw his side fall 36-34 in the first of this thrilling three match series.
"That was a great rugby game - the first of many I hope," said NorCal Varsity coach Rob Salaber. "The BC team were stiff competition which is what we expected coming up here and to be honest that game really could have gone either way."
"Rugby in Northern California is expanding rapidly and these games provide brilliant opportunities for us to come up here and play some good games and build a rivalry for years to come," Salaber added.
TrueBlue BC U15s 5, NorCal Jr Varsity 91
With a roster made up of U16 All-Stars, the NorCal Junior Varsity led from start to finish on Tuesday, crossing over for 15 tries. The visitors led 43-0 at the half and conceded just one try en route to their 91-5 win.
BC's only points came courtesy of a try from Josh Thiel (Abbotsford RFC) who shed multiple tacklers before crossing the try line early in the second half.
"I think we were outmatched and outsized today which was evident from the score line, but I'm proud that our players never gave up," said BC U15 coach Mike Stiles. "NorCal were well drilled and did a great job of supporting each other in open play and they were strong at the breakdown."
NorCal Jr Varsity captain Cody Clayton opened the scoring nine minutes into the match before the floodgates opened and further tries were recorded by Kyle Riley (2) , Erik Cortinas, Blake Stahl, Joseph Amodio, Nolan Williams (3), Dylan Tinnely, Jojo Tikuisuva (3), Danila Pasioles, and KJ Harris. Conversions were kicked by Steve Bodley (6) and Amodio (2).
"It's tough when games are lopsided like that but credit to both of these teams because it was still a great game and both sides displayed great sportsmanship," said NorCal Junior Varsity Coach Bob Benson. "We had a weight and size advantage but BC didn't quit and they definitely stood up to the test."
Up next the NorCal Juniors will head to Victoria where they will face off against the BC U15s Island selects.
ROUND TWO - VICTORIA MATCHES
4:00pm, June 21st: BC U15 Boys vs NCYRA Junior Varsity (at Wallace Field, UVic, Victoria)
5:30pm, June 21st: BC U17 Men vs NCYRA Varsity (at Wallace Field, UVic, Victoria)
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA YOUTH RUGBY ASSOCIATION
Much of the BC Rugby U17 activity for the 2012 summer season is centred around a partnership with the Northern California Youth Rugby Association, a perennial powerhouse at all USA Rugby National Championship youth events. The NCYRA is comprised of more than 90 clubs, 200 teams, 4,000 players (boys and girls) all playing in 13 youth divisions. For more information on NorCal rugby visit www.norcalrugby.com