Vancouver, BC – March 14th, 2016: BC Rugby U18 Sevens Teams celebrated an incredible double in front of a boisterous home crowd at BC Place on Saturday, claiming both the Girls’ and Boys’ Canadian Rugby 7s U18 Championships in the tournament’s inaugural year.
Strengthened by a relentless effort on defense, the BC Rugby U18 Girls, who had conceded only one try in the entire tournament, blanked Alberta by a score of 17-0. Moments later, with victory celebrations already underway, the BC Rugby U18 Boys followed-on with a 17-5 victory of their own over Ontario.
From the outset of the Girls’ game, BC quickly took up possession and put early pressure on Alberta. A forced knock-on deep in opposition territory allowed the BC U18 Girls to put their set-piece skills to work, and Brooke Bazian from Kamloops did not disappoint. She finished the fast paced sequence while being tackled hard to the right of the posts, getting the ball down in goal. BC were in the lead, much to the delight of the thousands of fans cheering them on.
Minutes later, Abbotsford RFC player and BC Team Captain, Mackenzie Carson, stormed her way through a tackle, broke the gain line and finished off a classy solo effort to widen the gap to 12-0 for BC.
The next ten minutes of play tested the resolve of both teams, as Alberta fought back valiantly with phase after phase of possession, but each threatening half-gap was closed off, and every escaping winger was reeled in by a BC defense that was nothing short of spectacular. As the end of the game approached, the BC defense kept Alberta bottled up deep in their end, and a turnover led to an opening for Victoria’s Sophie de Goede, who finished with a try in the corner.
“It was an unreal feeling, knowing that we had accomplished our goal in front of a big BC crowd,” said Carson. “From the moment the ball was up for the opening kickoff, our nerves calmed and we just came together and had fun.”
The BC Rugby U18 Boys then took to the field for their rematch against Ontario. The Teams had met two days earlier for a Canadian U18 Sevens Championship pool stage match in the wind and rain at Burnaby Lake Rugby Club, with Ontario defeating BC 20-12.
At times, BC had looked to be lacking in intensity in the pool games, but there would be no risk of that in the Final. Quick give-and-go passing in tight space near the Ontario try-line left North Vancouver’s Elias Ergas unmarked for the game’s opening score only moments in. Minutes later, in nearly the exact same spot, Oak Bay’s Brandon Schellenberger took control of a frenetic sequence and earned BC an important second try.
The Teams’ previous encounter had been a dramatic back and forth contest, with the teams separated by only two points at half-time, but the Finals rematch saw Ontario still looking to open their account as the break arrived. Both teams knew that the next score of the game would be the decisive one, and with four minutes to play, Earl Marriot Secondary School player and BC Captain, Michael Smith, jumped on a ball two meters away from the Ontario line. With a defender fully locked on, Smith summoned all his strength and willed himself forward, slamming the ball down just over the try-line.
Ontario managed a late reply in the closing seconds, but as the final whistle sounded, the BC Boys raced onto the field as Canadian Champions.
“It feels absolutely amazing,” said Smith. “To be part of the first BC Boys’ Team to take home a Canadian U18 Sevens trophy is something I know we will all truly remember.”
“The few minutes our U18 Boys spent on the field today represented months of hard work by these players,” said Coach Shane Thompson. “The level of commitment from this group was exceptional. They were so dedicated to each other, to learning, to performing and doing all the small things well. I’m very proud of this team. They were outstanding today and really took their game to the next level.”
“The focus and intensity we showed all week was incredible,” said BC Rugby U18 Girls Coach, Darcy Patterson. “In five games we allowed only one try against, which shows how much heart and determination our girls had on defense. That pressure in turn created a lot of offensive opportunities for us. It was a big crowd for the Final in BC Place, a great showcase for women’s rugby, and the girls handled it so well. It has been an amazing few days for this group, and I cannot say enough good things about them and the effort they put in.”
The success of the BC Teams can largely be attributed to the high-performance sevens programs that are producing a deep talent pool of sevens specialists. The BC Rugby Elite Youth 7s Program,and the BC Rugby Elite Girls’ 7s Program, have been collecting numerous accolades of late, including a pair of Cup victories in the Las Vegas Invitational two weeks ago. Those same players then formed the core of the BC Rugby Teams that tasted victory on home ground on Saturday.
One of the special moments for the Teams on Saturday was warming up beside the field while the Canada versus Wales game was underway. BC Rugby Elite Youth 7s graduate Pat Kay scored Canada’s first Rugby Sevens try on home soil just meters away from the BC athletes hoping to follow in his footsteps.
“This experience was inspiring not only to me but for all youth rugby players in Canada who want to make it to the next level,” said Smith. “I think it’s all about getting used to the high pressure situations and learning to adapt. That’s going to help us make it on the big stage.”
“Reaching the Senior Women’s Team, for many of us, is our ultimate goal,” said Carson after watching the Rugby Canada Maple Leafs defeat France in the Women’s Elite Cup Final of the Vancouver Rugby Festival, which also took place at BC Place. “Getting the opportunity to play in front of the same crowd and on the same turf as the Canadian Women helps us realize that those goals are within our reach and motivates us to work harder to achieve them.”
The BC Team players will head back to their respective clubs and schools for the duration of the Spring rugby season. You can catch them in action once again this April and May during the Boys’ and Girls’ BC High School Sevens Championships.
BC Rugby U18 Girls’ Sevens Team:
Brooke Bazian of Kamloops, BC (South Kamloops Secondary School)
Sophia Belsher of Abbotsford, BC (Abbotsford RFC / Robert Bateman Secondary School)
Tanika Bonneville of Surrey, BC (Bayside Sharks RC / Elgin Park Secondary)
Mackenzie Carson of Abbotsford, BC (Abbotsford RFC / Yale Secondary School)
Sophie de Goede of Victoria, BC (Castaway Wanderers RC / Oak Bay High School)
Mckenna Haz of Mill Bay, BC (Brentwood College School)
Camille Irvine of Victoria, BC (Castaway Wanderers RC / Claremont Secondary School)
Tausani Levale of Abbotsford, BC (Abbotsford RFC / Abbotsford Senior Secondary)
Laura Pfleiderer of Williams Lake, BC (Lake City Secondary School)
Denise Roy of Cowichan, BC (Brentwood College School)
Shaye Tudor of Victoria, BC (Castaway Wanderers RC)
Shalaya Valenzuela of Abbotsford, BC (Abbotsford RFC / Yale Secondary School)
Coach: Darcy Patterson of BC Rugby
BC Rugby U18 Boys’ Sevens Team:
Elias Ergas of North Vancouver, BC (Capilano RFC / Collingwood School)
Matthew Fraser of Abbotsford, BC (Abbotsford RFC / Earl Marriot Secondary School)
Wiley Gillette of Surrey, BC (Bayside Sharks RC / Earl Marriot Secondary School)
Matthew Houghton of North Vancouver (Capilano RFC / Rockridge Secondary School)
Kyle Joe of Cobble Hill, BC (Cowichan RFC / Cowichan Secondary School)
John Jubenvill of Surrey, BC (Bayside Sharks RC / Earl Marriot Secondary School)
William McDougall-Percillier of Mill Bay, BC (Cowichan RFC / Brentwood College School)
Evan Norris of Victoria, BC (Shawnigan Lake School)
Brennig Prevost of Victoria, BC (Castaway Wanderers RC / Glenlyon Norfolk School)
Brandon Schellenberger of Victoria, BC (Castaway Wanderers / Oak Bay High School)
Michael Smith of Surrey, BC (Earl Marriot Secondary School)
Jared Thind of Surrey, BC (Bayside Sharks RC / Southridge School)
Coach: Shane Thompson of BC Rugby
Athletic Therapist: Gareth Adams