by Andrew Smith
February 12, 2014, VICTORIA, BC (ISN) – British Columbia’s top level men’s club rugby competition will resume this weekend with a clash between the number one and two ranked teams in the Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League.
2013 Rounsefell Cup Finalists Burnaby Lake Rugby Club (5-1) will head to Victoria with first place on the line when they clash with the UVic Vikes (4-2) at Wallace Field.
Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League – Sat. February 15th:
- Burnaby Lake Rugby Club at UVic Vikes (Wallace Field) 2:45pm
- Castaway Wanderers RFC at Vancouver Rowing Club (Brockton Oval) 2:45pm
- Capilano RFC at Meraloma Rugby Club (Connaught Park) 2:45pm
- UBCOB Ravens at James Bay AA (MacDonald Park) 2:45pm
The Vikes have kept busy during the winter break with exhibitions against Canada under-20 (Win, 16-10) and a Wightman Boot series decider against UBC (Loss, 29-16). UVic also sent two teams to Vegas where they finished as runner-ups to UBC in the College division of the Las Vegas Invitational Sevens.
“It was a busy January and we feel we have had pretty good preparation leading into the first games,” said Uvic head coach Doug Tate. “We’ve had a look at a lot of players who have been away with the Maple Leafs and Canada U20 practices and it was great that some got the added experience.”
Canada under-20 rep James Pitblado has been a standout at scrum half for the Vikes and with Jamie Mackenzie sidelined through injury, will be relied on more this season for his game management. Canada U20 hopeful and Victoria product Fergus Hall currently tops the league scoring charts with 68 points as his goal kicking (18 conversions, 7 penalties) continues to be crucial to their success. BC Bears rep Clayton Thornber is also a key piece of the Vikes’ pack who Tate says is one of the most consistent players in the squad.
“Our forwards have improved a lot from last year and will need to be consistent against all the premier teams who have some very talented and experienced players,” Tate added. “Burnaby has been the most consistent over the past two years so I expect them to be a well-balanced team and they will be difficult to score on. We will have to limit our mistakes and poor penalties in order to compete at their level.”
Heading into Saturday’s clash Burnaby will have to find their footing quickly, having not played a match in nearly three months. The program has upwards of 70 players and have been training heavily with inter-squad matches.
“UVic is going to be match sharp and we will have our work cut out for us,” said Burnaby’s Director of Rugby Simon Smoldon. “We have had inter-squad games but nothing beats playing. It’s going to be fast and furious on Saturday and we know that some of our guys will probably get their second wind after the break and will need to get going quickly, especially when you factor in the ferry travel on the day.”
Burnaby have welcomed back several key pieces of their forward pack that powered them to a Rounsefell Cup appearance last May and will be looking to starve UVic’s speedsters of the ball.
“We’re expecting UVic to be very fit and they have so much depth in their program,” Smoldon added. “They’re able to put width on the ball and score from pretty much anywhere.”
Burnaby will have plenty of options for their front row with Micha Govorchin back from Canada-A and BC Bears duties, and will welcome back prop Scott Mackay and Andrew Lackner. Team Captain Anthony Luca will again be vital to the front row’s success, as will the powerful scrummager Ryan Ackerman. Canada under-20 graduate Admir Cejvanovic also makes his return after missing several games in the Fall.
The back line will see the return of pivot Geoff Ryan, scrum half Cody Rokson and speedster Jeke Gotegote. While UVic will be looking to contain 2013 BC Player of the Year Joe Dolesau, they will have their hands full with several scoring threats.
“We know that Dolesau is the guy who people key in on but we have some good weapons around him,” added Smoldon.
Saturday’s tilt will mark the first time Burnaby have returned to Wallace Field since the provincial finals last May when their First Division and Premier sides both came up short. Like the Premier match, Saturday’s First Division fixture will also be a clash between the top two sides in the league table. The game will be a rematch of the 2013 Ceili’s Cup Final where UVic went on to win 35-25.
The occasion isn’t lost on the Burnaby faithful and will mark the first time in the club’s history that they travel with a supporters’ bus to an away fixture.
“It’s generated a lot of interest in the alumni and it’s a date on the calendar that everyone has been looking forward to,” Smoldon added.
Around the Premier League
Vancouver Island will play host to two Premier League games on Saturday with no.3 James Bay (4-2) set to host no.4 UBCOB Ravens (4-2) at MacDonald Park. With the Ravens holding down the fourth playoff spot, the Vancouver-based squad will be looking to extend their seven point lead over the Rowers.
No.5 Vancouver Rowing Club (3-3) will look to continue their impressive return to the top flight as they host the no.7 Castaway Wanderers (2-4) at Brockton Oval. No.8 Meraloma (0-6) will be looking for a fresh start on Saturday when they attempt to secure their first win of the 2013-14 season against historic rivals no.6 Capilano RFC (2-4).
CDI Premier League Scoring Leaders:
- 68 pts – Fergus Hall (UVic Vikes)
- 48 pts – Mike Hall (Meraloma)
- 35 pts – Matt Sims (Capilano RFC)
- 31 pts – Geoff Ryan (Buranby Lake)
- 30 pts – Taylor Dalziel (James Bay)
- 30 pts – Clayton Meeres (James Bay)
- 27 pts – Shane O’Connor (UBCOB Ravens)
- 25 pts – Joe Dolesau (Burnaby Lake)
- 25 pts – Brian Murphy (Burnaby Lake)
- 23 pts – Alec Douglas (Burnaby Lake)