VICTORIA – For the first time in over two decades, the UVic Vikes men’s rugby team will play host to James Bay Athletic Association in the Vancouver Island Elite League championship, when the crosstown rivals battle for the coveted Barnard Cup this Saturday.
Both teams will rely on depth as they are missing key players who are away at the HSBC Sevens World Series with the Canadian national team. The Vikes are missing Dustin Dobravsky of Regina, Phil Mack of Victoria and Beau Parker, also of Victoria.
James Bay will miss John Moonlight of Pickering, Ont., Connor Braid of Victoria and Sean White of Victoria, who is also a former Vike. Nathan Hirayama of Richmond, B.C., is also representing the Canadian squad and will be back at UVic in the new year. They will be at the HSBC Sevens tournament in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and then Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
One of Western Canada’s longest-standing sporting traditions, the Barnard Cup has been awarded to the Vancouver Island rugby champion since 1911. James Bay have lifted the trophy a record 52 times and are two-time defending champions heading into Saturday’s contest. More recently, the Bays have won four of the last five championships, missing out on the Island title in 2008, when UVic speedster Sean Duke silenced the home crowd with a last minute try scoring run to clinch the division championship. The Bays will be in unfamiliar territory this weekend, however, playing the Island final outside of MacDonald Park for the first time in five years.
“Centennial Stadium isn’t the pitch we are used to playing on, but any time you can play a big game at home, it’s always exciting for our players,” said UVic head coach Doug Tate who is set for his first Barnard Cup final at home. “Games for us against James Bay are always tough and our guys are ready for this weekend. Hopefully the weather holds and it should be a great event.”
The top-seeded Vikes (5-1) have been in top form during the Elite season, and are undefeated in their last four matches. The students will be without the services of national team players Mack and Duke, and will rely heavily on their top scorers. Winning the Island Elite scoring race with 77 points, No. 8 Dobravsky has asserted himself as one the most dynamic players in the league but he too will be away with the national team. The forward kicked for goal (19 conversions), leads his team in try scoring (6 tries) and kicked three penalties this season. Another standout making his mark in the back field is Remi Anctil, who after enjoying an injury-free season notched five tries for the Vikes, tied for fifth in overall scoring. Former Bayside RFC grad and Canadian Sevens international Tony LaCarte has also been a key piece to Uvic’s success, converting from full back to both scrum half and standoff.
“Tony is probably our Most Valuable Player this season as he has filled in wherever we needed him,” said Tate. “He is probably our most consistent player and has played really well defensively.”
The Bays will be relying on a tested batch of veterans, well accustomed to high-pressure situations. Top scorers Braid (69 points), Conor McCann (31 pts), Morgan Williams (25 pts), Nolan Mile (25 pts) and Hugo Belanger (25 pts) have all been tested at the provincial and national level in recent years. One to watch this weekend will also be Atlantic Rock and Newfoundland product Zac Coughlan, a powerful back rower who has come west to play rugby during the winter months.
“James Bay have a lot of experience, a balanced attack and a lot of skill, especially when the Williams brothers (Morgan and Jeff) and Dave Moonlight are on at the same time,” Tate added. “It always takes a full 80 minutes to beat that team. It will be a close game and could even come down to goal kicking this weekend.”
This weekend’s Barnard Cup final will also serve as the first leg of the two game Bays-Vikes Challenge Cup, initiated by Ian Stewart to foster athletic competition and citizen-building between the two rugby programs. The result will also carry through to the 2011-2012 Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League standings. The First Division encounter between the two sides is tentatively set for 12:30pm at Wallace Field this Saturday.
2011 Vancouver Island Elite Scoring Race – Top 10
1. Dustin Dobravsky (UVic Vikes) – 77 pts (6 tries, 19 conversions, 3 penalties)
2. Connor Braid (James Bay) – 69 pts (3 tries, 15 conversions, 8 penalties)
3. Pita Savea (Castaway Wanderers) – 39 pts (2 tries, 13 conversions, 1 penalty)
4. Conor McCann (James Bay) – 31 pts (1 try, 10 conversions, 2 penalties)
T5. Remi Anctil (UVic Vikes) – 25 pts (5 tries)
T5. Isaac Bainivalu (Castaway Wanderers) – 25 pts (5 tries)
T5. Morgan Williams (James Bay) – 25 pts (5 tries)
T5. Nolan Miles (James Bay) – 25 pts (5 tries)
T5. Hugo Belanger (James Bay) – 25 pts (5 tries)
T10. Phil Mack (UVic Vikes) – 20 pts (2 tries, 2 conversions, 2 penalties)
T10. Dan Harlow (James Bay) – 20 pts (4 tries)
T10. Brett Beukeboom (UVic Vikes) – 20 pts (4 tries)
T10. Sean Duke (UVic Vikes) – 20 pts (4 tries)
Vikes vs Bays – Barnard Cup Results (last 4 years)
2010: UVic [ 37 – 44 ] James Bay
2009: UVic [ 23 – 27 ] James Bay
2008: UVic [ 23 – 18 ] James Bay
2007: UVic [ 20 – 34 ] James Bay