By Jamie Umbach, Vikes Communications
VICTORIA, B.C. – The University of Victoria Vikes men’s rugby team will vie for their second-straight and fourth overall Barnard Cup title this weekend, Dec. 5, at Wallace Field. The 1:00 p.m. match up will put the Vikes against the Castaway Wanderers for back-to-back seasons. The Vikes earned a bye in to the island final after an undefeated regular season (9-0), while the Wanderers finished 5-4.
The Castaways needed a win over the James Bay Athletic Association to secure their place in the final against the Vikes and they ticked that box on Nov. 28, winning 31-17 over the Bays. Despite James Bay beating the Castaways 17-12 just one week prior, Nov. 21, the Bays were left short of a championship appearance. James Bay had previously appeared in all Barnard Cup finals from 2007-13, winning six times overall and five in a row from 2009-13.
The win eliminated any possibility of the final being played in January after the final make-up game of the season from a rain out in late October for James Bay was not needed.
“I’m glad this game doesn’t have to be played in the New Year because we didn’t want to be forced into another game with our already busy schedule,” said Tate, whose team is one of just two university student-athlete based teams who have busy exam schedules through the winter. “Now that all of the scheduling conflicts are resolved and the game time is set, we can now focus all of our attention on this weekend’s final before the players get some much needed time to focus on exams and other priorities.”
Saturday’s finale will be a rematch of last season’s Barnard Cup final, which ended in a 25-17 win for the Vikes over the Castaways. Last season’s triumph was the Vikes’ first Barnard Cup title since 2008. In the previous five seasons prior to last season’s victory, the Vikes lost in the final in all five match ups.
Throughout the Fall of 2015, the Vikes and Castaways met three times in regular season and the Vikes took all three games en route to boost their undefeated regular season. As the season progressed, the Vikes were met with more and more of a challenge as teams around the island began to improve their rosters with new-look squads and lineups.
“Playing against (Castaways) got harder as every game went on,” commented Tate. “I don’t think we will change much of the way we have been playing. They won’t be expecting us to play any different and we have had success all year against them. They are a physical team and have a lot of skill in their forwards.”
The Vikes will field a full healthy squad including first-year Bhiamie Williamson, who has occupied the eight-man position for the Vikes this season. Other stand outs will include Isaac Kaay, Jeff Nishma-Miller and Nathan Stewart. First-year eight-man Luke Bradley and third-year Flanker Oliver Nott are both away with the Canadian Rugby Sevens program in Dubai.
The Wanderers boast front line players like prop Jake Ilnicki and former Vike Clayton Thorner at hooker, who will surely keep the Vikes defence busy. Out wide, wingers Keenan Horton and Ian Hickman will test the Vikes defence by trying to play wide and expansive.
The 2015 season marked a new format for the BC Rugby men’s premier league in which seven teams from the lower mainland competed over seven weeks of qualification for the Mainland Cup, while four teams from Vancouver Island competed over 12 weeks for the Barnard Cup. The top six teams from the Mainland Cup automatically advance to the Canadian Direct Insurance (CDI) Premier league, held from January to April in 2016, while the top three teams from the Barnard Cup advance. Following the Lower Mainland Premier qualification round, the seventh ranked team will immediately join the Okanagan Spring Brewery League and following the Island Premier qualification round, the fourth ranked team will join the Vancouver Island Division 1 Spring 2016 competition. Teams are not permanently relegated. Upon conclusion of the 2015-2016 season, all CDI Premier League / Okanagan Spring Brewery League teams will once again be eligible to participate in the Premier qualification round slated for September 2016.
Kick-off for the Barnard Cup final is at 1:00 p.m. at Wallace Field on Nov. 28. For ticket information, visit govikesgo.com/tickets. Tickets are free for all full time University of Victoria students, faculty and staff.
BARNARD CUP HISTORY
2014: UVic [25-17] Castaway Wanderers
2013: UVic [23-26] James Bay
2012: UVic [27-54] James Bay
2011: UVic [13-22] James Bay
2010: UVic [37-44] James Bay
2009: UVic [23-27] James Bay
2008: UVic [23-18] James Bay
2007: UVic [20-34] James Bay
2006: UVic [25-23] Castaway Wanderers
Winners listed in BOLD.