By Ali Lee, Vikes Communications
VICTORIA, B.C. – For the first time in B.C. men’s rugby premier league history two university teams will duke it out for the prestigious Rounsefell Cup on May 9 at North Vancouver’s Klahanie Park. Although the grounds are typically home to Capilano Rugby Club, this weekend will host a series of B.C. Rugby match up including the University of Victoria Vikes men against the UBC Thunderbirds for the league title.
Following a 25-22 semifinal victory over the Capilanos on Apr. 25, the Victoria Vikes enter the CDI Premier League final for the first time since 2010, also the last time they were crowned league champions. The Vikes have been Rounsefell Cup champions just three times, first in 1971 and then again in 2003 and 2010, while the T-Birds have not claimed a cup since 1947.
“We expect this to be a fast, open game and there is a lot on the line,” explained Vikes head coachDoug Tate, who will have seven graduates compete in their last game as a Vike this weekend. “We have a lot of guys graduating and they have now played together for three or four years now. They are really good friends who have worked very, very hard and they are just physically a lot stronger.”
In the mix playing their final games as Vikes are standouts Dustin Dobravsky, Luke McCloskey, Doug Fraser, Remi Anctil, Connor Liewellyn, Shea Wakefield and Casey Cavers.
“This is also really exciting because it’s the first time two university teams have made it to the final,” added Tate. “It speaks loudly to the growth and strength of our programs but we know it’s going to be a hard hitting game out there.”
The Thunderbirds, known for their aggressive defence and potent attack will likely look to the strengths of scrum half Jorden Sandover-Best, who has played with Canada’s Under 20’s, as well as senior Nathan Rees and second year James Thompson. The T-Birds also boast third-year Connor Hamilton in the second row and the league’s top goal kicker Brock Staller.
UBC and UVic faced each other twice during the 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.
“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.”
Tate’s line-up will include a midfield of Fraser and Anctil, who will need to be tough defensively, as well as outside half Liewellyn, and the experience of Crosby Stewart and McCloskey.
“UBC are aggressive defensively so we are going to need to string together phase of play to generate offence,” added Tate. “Line outs are going to be key. Who wins those will be important because it’s all about possession. We are also really going to have to avoid taking penalties.”
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.
“We have a ton of respect for UVic and it’s anyone’s game to win,” said ‘Birds boss 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.”
Last season the Vikes had a disappointing finish, avoiding relegation, but finishing near the bottom of the tables. This year, the Vikes 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.
The Vikes and Thunderbirds will clash at 3:00 p.m. at North Vancouver’s Klahanie Park. The event will be streamed live at bcrugby.com/live. The UVic norsemen will also be competing in the Library Square Cup final just prior with kick-off at 1:15 p.m.
Finals will be held at both Klahanie Park Park and Brockton Oval. Single entry tickets will be available at the gate for $10. Cash only.
Klahanie Park – Lower Field (in front of grandstand / pavilion)
11:45am – Women’s Premier – Velox Valkyries vs Burnaby Lake
1:15pm – Library Square Cup – Burnaby Lake vs Uvic
3:00pm – CDI Premier – UBC vs UVic
Klahanie Park – Upper Field
12:00pm – Women’s Division 2 – Kelowna vs Comox
1:15pm – Men’s Division 3A – Kelowna vs Velox Valhallians
Brockton Oval, Stanley Park
11:00am – Men’s Division 3B – SFU vs Chilliwack
12:30pm – Women’s Division 1 – Cowichan vs United
2:00pm – Okanagan Spring 2 – Abbotsford vs Richmond
3:30pm – Okanagan Spring 1 – Meraloma vs Seattle