Thunderbirds down Vikes in first leg of 2014-15 Boot series

UBC men

VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds moved to 3-0 in the Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League standings on Saturday, defeating rivals, the University of Victoria Vikes (2-1) by a score of 30-19 in the first leg of the storied Wightman Boot series. The bonus point win also saw the Birds hold down top spot in the Premier table, claiming 15 points from their first three wins since being promoted to the province’s top flight competition. 

UBC’s defence was relentless from minutes five to 75 and their efforts were enough to see off a Vikes side who are hungry to make amends after relinquishing the Boot last season for the first time in 17 years.

UVic’s opening try came in the second minute when Doug Fraser ran in almost untouched for the opening score and Giusseppe du Toit added a convert. The Birds would hold out the Vikes until the final five minutes when Casey Cavers would go over in the 75th and Pitblado would dot down in the 79th.
“I’m very happy with the win but we still have work to do,” said UBC head coach Rameses Langston. “We know when we see them again that they’re going to be twice as good. It can be tough to hold on to the win in the final 10 minutes and as you saw today, UVic are able to turn around and score in 30 seconds.”

After conceding the opening try, UBC found their footing and jumped out to a 20-7 half time lead. Some pivotal tactical kicking would put the Vikes under pressure in the corner and twice the Birds were able to score from driving mauls after winning lineouts. Second row Connor Hamilton was credited with two tries from the mauls and it was winger Brock Staller who provided UBC’s third try. Staller added a convert and a penalty from nearly 50 metres for the lead at the break. 

The second half saw UBC maintain their momentum and Staller added a penalty in the 47th minute for a 23-7 lead.

The two sides were gridlocked for much of the ensuing 20 minutes as wet weather and knock-ons kept both sides off the board. In the 67th minute, UBC centre James Thompson would be put into space before he ran in from 22 metres for UBC’s fourth try of the match. Staller’s conversion from just inside the touchline made it 30-7.

Victoria would not go quietly and in the final five minutes were able to go over for a pair of well-deserved tries. Cavers went over and Pitblado quickly converted. Pitblado would score shortly after but the clock wore out at 30-19. The two late tries could prove pivotal if the Boot series is to be decided by an accumulative score when the two sides meet again in Victoria on February 7th at Wallace Field.

Up next, the Birds will look to keep their early season form going when they host Capilano RFC on Saturday, November 1 at the Gerald McGavin UBC Rugby Centre. 

About the Wightman Boot?
More commonly known as “The Boot”, the home-and-home series played between the province’s top university rugby programs will be in its 44th edition this year. The annual competition was named after the late Brian Wightman, who was at the helm of the Thunderbirds from 1964-1967. The trophy for the annual competition features Wightman’s boot, which was stolen and bronzed by his players. The “Boot Game” has featured the Vikes and Thunderbirds every year since 1970 with the exception of the 1978-79 season when UBC hosted Stanford. The Vikes won 17 straight titles until conceding the Boot to the Birds in 2014.