Andrew SmithVancouver, BC: The 2012 BC Rugby club season may still be ten days away in British Columba but the cries of “Huddy Huddy Bays!” can already be heard across the Georgia Straight and throughout the Lower Island region. The perennial contenders James Bay Athletic Association are the number one men’s club side in British Columbia according to a coaches poll. The Bays currently sit tied for second with a 2-0 record in the Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League standings but their opponents have identified them as the league’s strongest squad.
The James Bay Athletic Associtation Bays celebrate after winning their 53rd Barnard Cup in late November.
Glenn Ivens photo (www.javalon.smugmug.com)
Coaches Poll – Power Rankings:
Ranking/ Club (League record)
1. James Bay AA (2-0)
2. Castaway Wanderers RFC (1-1)
3. Capilano RFC (2-0)
4. UVic Vikes (1-1)
5. Burnaby Lake Rugby Club (2-0)
6. UBCOB Ravens (1-2)
7. Meraloma Rugby Club (0-3)
8. Abbotsford RFC (0-2)
Balanced with a blend of veteran experience and national team prospects, the Bays have lost just once during the 2011-2012 season and this past November clinched their third straight Barnard Cup (Island championship) with a convincing 22-13 win over the University of Victoria Vikes. All eight Premier League head coaches ranked their opposition from strongest to weakest for the poll and the Bays were touted as the province’s best with five top votes.
Reigning provincial champions Castaway Wanderers received two first place votes while 2011 Lower Mainland champions Capilano RFC also received a single top vote. All three Vancouver Island teams were ranked in the top half of the power rankings with Premier League coaches indicating the trio were bolstered by national team prospects heading West for their winter rugby.
Three out-of-province players helped James Bay to their most recent Island championship including Newfoundland product Zac Coughlan and Ontario provincial players Connor McCann and JT Rowbotham. Oak Bay grad Connor Braid led JBAA in scoring during the Fall season with a haul of 69 points and will certainly be at the forefront of the Bays attack along with World Cup scrum half Sean White.
The Vikes will enter the new year without several of their national team sevens players representing Canada on the IRB Sevens World Series circuit including Nathan Hirayama and Sean Duke. The students will also be without the services of scrum half Phil Mack who is sidelined with a knee injury.
Many on the Lower Mainland will be waiting to see if Burnaby Lake can build on their 2-0 record and their 2012 opener against Capilano will be a crucial indicator to see if they are capable of making a run for one of four playoff spots available in April.
After strong postseason runs in 2011, Vancouver clubs UBCOB Ravens and Meralomas struggled during the 2012 Fall season but it can’t be long before the perennial contenders find their footing in the province’s top flight. The Meralomas last lifted the Rounsefell Cup in 2009 and are the only club to make an appearance in the last four championship finals.
Ranked at the bottom of the coaches poll is Abbotsford RFC, a side still yet to register a win against Premier League competition since qualifying for the top tier in 2011. Abbotsford are in for a tough opening weekend as they head to MacDonald Park to face James Bay at home.
CDI Premier League – Sat. January 28th, 2012
Abbotsford RFC at James Bay AA (MacDonald Park) 2:45pm
UVic Vikes at Castaway Wanderers RFC (Windsor Park) 2:45pm
Burnaby Lake RC at Capilano RFC (Klahanie Park) 2:45pm