Original Article – Tyler Lowey, UVic Vikes Communications
A fantastic battle between two long-time rivals came down to a last-second kick by Max Radcliffe.
The University of British Columbia Thunderbirds first-year scrum half lined up his kick, took his time, but missed left as the University of Victoria Vikes dethroned the two-time defending Canadian University Men’s Rugby champions 21-20 on Sunday morning at Sherbooke Field.
The last time the Vikes and Thunderbirds locked horns, UBC jumped out to an early 20-3 lead at half during Men’s Premier League action. Regrouping during the break, the Vikes attempted to mount a comeback, but fell short by 6 points at the final whistle.
Five minutes into the first half of the championship final, the Thunderbirds struck first when Dan Archer faked a pass, found a gap and ran 40 yards for the try.
The Thunderbirds got a foot on the ball in a ruck 10 minutes into the first half, which awarded the Vikes a penalty goal. Setting up from the 20-yard line, Jenner Teufel pushed his first kick slightly left of the uprights – the same uprights Radcliffe later missed on.
Off a booming kick midway through the first half, the Thunderbirds chewed up yardage in Vikes’ territory. Grinding the ball down towards the try line, the T-birds took their time and squeezed the ball over the line for their second try by Nick Allen. This time, Jack Scher completed the convert.
The Thunderbirds earned a yellow card with eight minutes remaining in the first half after committing a penalty in a maul. The Vikes capitalized on the man-advantage 10 yards out when Logan Martin-Feek drove forward and found O’Neill right before going down. The fourth-year Albertan used a stutter step to create space before plunging into the end zone right underneath the uprights. Teufel completed the convert to bring the Vikes within five points.
Five minutes later, O’Neill was rumbling and bumbling, looking to tie it up. He was running out of steam when Lockie Kratz came in behind to provide the extra oomph to get over the line. Teufel drilled his kick from the side to give the Vikes a 14-12 lead into halftime.
The Thunderbirds were marching in the second half and tried to chip it up the field deep into Vikes’ territory. They recovered their own kick, but O’Neill was there to intercept an offload on his own five-yard line.
Forced to kick, the Vikes forced another turnover after some poor passing by the Thunderbirds. A bobbled feed was scooped up by Martin-Feek, as he sent the Vikes heading the other direction with some speed.
The Thunderbirds didn’t go away easily, as Jack Scheer, delivered a penalty goal with 13 minutes remaining in regulation to give the T-birds a one-point lead.
The lead was only temporary, as the Vikes used a few pick-and-gos from Kratz and Ben Newhook, to bring the ball within a few yards of the end zone. Making the final push was Nick Carson, as he barrelled in for the try.
With seven minutes remaining, Thomas Di Fiore jumped on a UBC fumble and marched back up field. Teufel tried to catch the Thunderbirds napping after a penalty and tried to dart in for the try, but the last line of defence stuffed him short of another try.
Trailing 21-15 with less than a minute left on the clock and possession of the ball, UBC needed a try and the convert to retain their national title.
Exhausted and without their captain James O’Neill after he drew a yellow card, the Vikes defence battled and tried to force a turnover, but the Birds won back the ball. The Vikes did allow a last-second try, but forced UBC to the outside and more challenging kick from the corner, which Radcliffe missed after time had expired.
For the Vikes, it was their first title since the tournament returned two years ago. They previously won the national championship in 1997 and 1998, before the tournament went on a hiatus. The Vikes have left this tournament with a silver and bronze in each of the past two championships.
Both sides will now return their attention to Men’s Premier League action.