BC Rugby Club Championships – May 9 at Klahanie Park and Stanley Park

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The CDI Premier League championship game kicks off at Klahanie Park, West Vancouver at 3pm on Saturday, May 9, 2015. Tickets are $10 at the gate. The game will be streamed live on bcrugby.com/live

Exactly one year ago, the UBC Thunderbirds and UVic Vikes began a meteoric rise towards the top. Twelve months later, they each stand poised to capture the Rounsefell Cup.

UBC’s ascent began with victory in the 2014 Okanagan Spring Brewery Division 1 Final, thereby earning a promotion to the Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League to start this season. The Thunderbirds then raced out of the gate with four consecutive wins. At the winter break, they found themselves at the top of the tables.

Their Rounsefell Cup opponents from UVic had a disappointing finish last year, avoiding relegation, but finishing near the bottom of the standings. This year, they have emerged as one of hardest working and most consistent teams in the competition. Early victories over James Bay, Capilano and Burnaby Lake demonstrated that they would be in contention for a playoff spot, and while other teams faltered in the second half of the season, UVic secured four wins and a draw from their final six matches, finishing comfortably in second place overall.

UBC and UVic faced each other twice during the 2014 / 2015 regular season, with UBC taking both games (30-19 & 23-19) and capturing the Wightman Boot as a result. While that piece of hardware is hotly contested between the two universities each year, the prestigious Rounsefell Cup on offer will make Saturday’s game arguably the most important and anticipated rugby game ever played between the two schools.

“It’s huge for our guys,” said UVic Vikes coach Doug Tate. “This is a close group of friends who have worked very hard together. We have several players graduating this year.”

“There was not much separating us from UBC when we played them, and we made some small errors defensively,” said Tate. “UBC has some very talented players like Thompson and Rees whom we’ll need to be mindful of.”

The second half of the season saw UBC falter, winning only once of their final five regular season games, but they looked confident in an impressive 23-8 semi-final win over Burnaby Lake.

“We’re just so proud of the commitment, desire and buy-in from the players this season,” said UBC coach Rameses Langston. “No single game result, regardless of how it turns out, will change what they have been able to accomplish this season. The players have been an absolute pleasure to work with and I cannot say enough great things about this group.”

UBC scrum half Jorden Sandover-Best spoke about what the journey has been like for the players.

“It started with us just trying to make a statement that we could compete and win at this level,” said Sandover-Best. As the wins pilled up, Sandover-Best said it felt as though the team collectively had an epiphany that they could not only compete week to week, but that the playoffs and a title were achievable goals.

“Just to be here is such an honor,” said Sandover-Best. “It’s been a long time since UBC has had its name on the Cup, but there are so many rugby legends that have been part of UBC teams. It’s amazing to be representing our school and its tradition on Saturday. Emotions are going to be pretty high for all of us.”

“We have a ton of respect for UVic and it’s anyone’s game to win,” said Langston. “UVic likes to use the boot, they look for turnovers and to capitalize on mistakes, but we’re going to meet them everywhere on the field.”

UVic earned their way into the Rounsefell Cup Final after defeating Capilano RFC in the semi-final by a score of 25-22.

“This will be a great opportunity to showcase University rugby,” said Tate.

The UVic Vikes and UBC Thunderbirds have both competed in the Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League for much of the competition’s history as participating clubs, but have often not been eligible for playoff competition due to their status as University clubs. Changes in recent years, however, have allowed them to compete for the title, with UVic capturing a Rounsefell Cup most recently in 2010. UBC last won the Rounsefell Cup in 1947.