Andrew Smith

West Vancouver, BC: North Shore rugby outfit Capilano RFC have returned to the top tier in British Columbia, and are set to host cross town rivals Meraloma Rugby Club in round two of the 2011-2012 Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League.

After missing out on top flight rugby last spring, the Caps were convincing winners during the Okanagan Spring Brewery League season, clinching the provincial title with a 50-3 championship victory over Richmond RFC. Their form carried through to the 2011 Fall club season, where they finished on top of the Spray Elite standings at 6-1. Clinching the top seed was rewarded with home field advantage in the semifinals set for November 26th as well as a berth to the 2011-2012 CDI Premier League.

Bolstered by the return of veteran leadership and injury-free starters, Capilano defeated two Premier League teams through September and October, downing Abbotsford RFC 34-3, and edging Burnaby Lake Rugby Club 10-5.

Capilano head coach Tom Larisch spoke highly of the team’s current form attributing their recent success to some key changes within his squad.

“The most significant [reason] has been a change of attitude. Returning players understand expectations and we have got some players back that were unavailable last year, or who graduated who are natural leaders,” Larisch said. “Some of the tactics and strategies we have trained for over a year are starting to be implemented and executed properly.”

Key members of the squad this season include no. 8 Sam Penhall, crafty scrum half and former Canada Under-20 standout Matt Yanagiya and lineout specialist Luke Cudmore who leads by example with his international experience. Fly half Charlie Jones has returned from his studies at UBC to lead the back line and combines well with Nate Rees, a welcomed addition to the club who excels in the centres.

“Our two best players from last year, back rowers Glen McKinnon (in New Zealand) and Hayden Bavins (injured) are back in the lineup and will provide a strong boost to the team,” Larisch added.

On Saturday Capilano will clash with lower mainland rivals Meraloma Rugby Club, a side that has made four straight provincial final appearances, last winning the Rounsefell Cup in 2009. The winless Lomas have struggled as of late due to injuries and turnover, with the side going 0-7 against Spray Elite competition.

“They have been missing many of their players so far this year,” Larisch said of Saturday’s opponents. “Having said that, no matter who they have on the field, a Lomas and Capilano game is always competitive. I am more concerned with our own preparation as we can’t control their situation. Our systems, defensive structure, and decision making need to be sharp as we are now starting the Premier season and the level will be higher.”

Kickoff for the Ceili’s Cup League match featuring Capilano and Meraloma Division One sides is set for 1:00pm at Klahanie Park on Saturday, November 12th. The Premier League tilt gets underway at 2:30pm.

Premier League Qualification

Four teams are currently competing in a round-robin playoff for the eighth and final berth to the 2011-2012 Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League. The competition features three teams from the Lower Mainland (Burnaby Lake Rugby Club, Bayside Sharks RFC and Vancouver Rowing Club) with the lone Vancouver Island contender Velox RFC. The three-round qualification schedule will take place from November 5-19, and the teams will then resume play in the Lower Mainland Spray League playoffs from November 26-December 3rd.

Nov. 5th: Bayside Sharks [78 – 21] Vancouver Rowing Club

Nov. 5th: Burnaby Lake [44 – 6] Velox Valhallians

Nov. 12th: Bayside Sharks at Velox Valhallians (Velox RFC) 2:30pm

Nov. 12th: Burnaby Lake at Vancouver Rowing Club (Brockton Oval) 2:30pm

Nov. 19th: Burnaby Lake at Bayside Sharks (South Surrey Athl. Park) 2:30pm

Nov. 19th: Vancouver Rowing Club at Velox Valhallians (Velox RFC) 2:30pm