Vancouver (ISN) – Third-seeded Capilano RFC pipped the top ranked James Bay Athletic Association 22-21 at Klahanie Park on Saturday, winning their first Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League championship since securing back-to-back titles during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons.
It’s a remarkable achievement considering this time last year Capilano were competing in Tier Two competition after being relegated from the Premier League, defeating Richmond in the 2011 Okanagan Spring Brewery League Final.
Now the club are back on top after a three-try championship performance that had their home fans on the edge of their seats for a full 80 minutes of rugby.
The 2011-2012 Rounsefell Cup Final opened with James Bay kicker and Canadian International Connor Braid kicking a penalty for the early 3-0 lead. Capilano responded with a try from Ron Johnston and scrum half Chris Robinson provided the extras for a 7-3 lead.
Braid added another penalty for the Bays and Robinson responded in turn for the 10-6 score line, favouring Capilano.
The second half opened with Canadian Sevens International Jeff Hassler showing his speed to dot down for James Bay, putting the score at 10-11.
Capilano had the advantage in the set pieces, dictating the forwards play and breaking the Bays down. Their next score came courtesy of a try from inside centre Nate Rees. Robinson added the conversion and Capilano were up 17-11.
Several turnovers were committed by both sides and Capilano cost themselves a number of penalties. Braid made them pay, adding another score to see James Bay trailing by three when it was 17-14.
The final 20 minutes were an electrifying display of open rugby as both sides recorded tries.
Sending the home stands into a frenzy was 18-year-old Capilano winger Nathan Yanagiya, a Carson Graham Secondary standout who chased down his own kick to crash over in the far corner. The try provided the Caps with a 22-14 buffer and nearly put the game out of reach.
Battling until the final minutes, it was Hassler who again scored for James Bay as he blitzed through his defenders and touched down between the uprights. Braid provided the extras and the Bays were trailing 22-21 with full time eventually running out.
“I’m obviously disappointed that we didn’t get the win but that was an exciting game of rugby,” James Bay head coach Peter Rushton said when the final whistle blew. “[Capilano] were more organized up front and even though we were prepared for it, we didn’t have the consistent ability to defend against their attack.”
For Capilano captain Charlie Jones who led the Caps to a Lower Mainland divisional title in the Fall, the win capped off an incredibly draining season of rugby.
“Exhilarated is the word I would use to describe how it feels right now,” Jones said after the win. “We played a great team game today and it was all about total determination as a group.”
Capilano head coach Tom Larisch was ecstatic to see his players complete the turnaround from last season and has plenty to look forward to with a mass of players currently filling the ranks in the Capilano program. Larisch also serves as head coach for Carson Graham and to see his high school standout Nathan Yanagiya excel at the senior men’s level and contribute a try was not lost on him.
“I struggled to decide if I was going to bring him as I didn’t want to jeopardize his high school season,” Larisch said. “I never could have imagined he would have had this much of an impact at the senior level. Hopefully he keeps level-headed and realizes there is still a lot to learn.”