VANCOUVER – On May 31, the local rugby community will descend on Klahanie Park for the BC Rugby 125th Anniversary Fixture, featuring the BC Bears versus Canada Selects.
The match will kick off a number of events in place this summer to recognize the Union’s distinguished history and to inspire the next generation of players. BC Rugby is inviting you to join us in celebrating the achievements that our past and present members have made in putting our provincial union on the map. This feature is the first in a series highlighting the achievements of BC Rugby’s storied history.
In 2006, the first ever team was inducted into the BC Rugby Hall of Fame. The recognition was long overdue for this particular BC senior men’s provincial team, who defeated the famed British Lions on September 14th, 1966. Comprised of just 15 players, the squad produced one of the most monumental upsets in Canadian rugby history, defeating the British Lions 8-3 in front of 7,000 fans at Vancouver’s Empire Stadium. British Columbia’s provincial reps were hosting the Lions at the tail end of their four-month, 33-match tour.
The Lions were on their way home, fresh off a series defeat to the New Zealand All Blacks. The game-winning try at Empire Stadium was recorded by Peter Grantham and converted by Don Burgess. Burgess also tacked on a penalty for the win. Welsh International Dewi Webb recorded the Lions’ only points when he crossed over for a try (3 points in 1966). BC’s try was the result of a counter-attack off a crucial play, one that saw Ted Hunt punch the ball out of a Lions player’s hands. Hunt regained possession and ran over 80 yards down the touch line, before kicking cross-field to his awaiting team mate – loose head prop Grantham – who scooped up the ball and dotted down under the posts. “I guess we didn’t think we’d win, but we didn’t think about that on the field,” Gary Fumano said years later when interviewed about the match by Total Rugby. “Once we were into the game, I felt ‘these guys are no bigger or tougher than me.’ And I just followed the pack.”
The BC roster on that famed day included (back row of image above) Ross McDonald, David Milne, Dick Layzell, Bill Taylor, Mike Chambers, Chuck Pentland, Al Bianco and Tom Browne. The roster also included (front row) Jim Ryan, Gary Fumano, Peter Grantham, Ted Hunt (captain), Don Burgess, Tim Cummings and Brian McKee. Like a number of his team mates, Fumano had grown up playing both rugby and gridiron football. The British press said the Lions weren’t prepared for the Canadians, comprised of players who thrived on the physicality offered in both sports.“In gridiron, every yard counts. So you make sure you make the hit,” Fumano added in his interview. “I think that’s what shocked the Lions more than anything at the beginning of the game. Every time one of the Lions got his hands on the ball, he was hit and put down in his place.”
The result was especially impressive considering the Lions had beaten Australia twice during their 1966 tour and went on to defeat Canada 19-8 just three days later in Toronto. Since 1966, the BC senior men’s provincial team have claimed international scalps against Japan (1976, 38-7 W), Scotland (1985, 22-13 W), Japan (1989, 46-10 W) and Russia (2009, 38-16 W). Now known as the BC Bears, the provincial program will play nine games this summer, beginning with the highlight fixture against the Canada Selects. The Bears will then depart for a tour of South America in July where they will face Buesnos Aires and the Uruguayan National Team. BC will return home to compete in the Canadian Rugby Championship, with hopes of lifting their first MacTier Cup since 2009. Join us in celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the British Columbia Rugby Union at West Vancouver’s Klahanie Park on May 31. Tickets start at just $20.00 for adults (plus taxes and service fees) and are $10.00 for youths aged 12 and under. BC BEARS VS CANADA SELECTS