VICTORIA- It was a complete team effort that gave the University of Victoria Vikes men’s rugby team a 57-36 victory to kick off their 2018 season against Westshore on Sept. 8 at Wallace Field.  Fourth-year Vike Gradyn Bowd led in scoring contributing one try and six converts, while Kapi Vataiki had 15 points from three tries.

The home victory counts towards Barnard Cup standings only in the new schedule format. The Barnard Cup will be handed out to the top island team after the series is complete in February.

The Vikes were without nine of their regular starters who are away representing Canada at the U20 World Rugby Trophy competition in Romania. This gave an opportunity for several young players to get their first taste of premiership level rugby in B.C.

“We went down early, but we pushed back and played very well in the first half,” said Victoria head coach Doug Tate, entering his 25thseason at the helm.

Westshore opened the scoring in the fifth minute of the match. After stringing together several phases, the visitors were the benefactors of a line out deep in Vikes territory. Despite some solid defence along their goal line, Victoria conceded the opening try to trail 5-0 early.

After two mid-field  line breaks from Tom Teuser and Vataiki , Gradyn Bowd was able to put Mostyn Findlay through a hole just outside the Westshore goal line.  Bowd’s conversion was successful and put the Vikes up 7-5 at the 18-minute mark.

Victoria started to turn it on in the 31stminute when Bowd spotted an overlap and sent winger Vataiki down the field for his first of two tries in less than three minutes.

Fullback, Liam Morrison ran in his first try of the season in the final minute of the first half to give the Vikes a 28-5 lead at the break.

Victoria kept up the momentum entering the second half. Carson O’Sullivan and Bowd each scored early and Bowd was successful on both conversions.

Westshore were able to claw their way back into the match but the Vikes’ early scoring runs put them out of reach. Two more quick tries put the Valhallians back to within 18 but the Vikes answered back with a try from Ollie Nott in the 60thminute.  Two more tries from Nott and Vataiki closed out the game for the Vikes 57-36 and the team’s first victory of the season.

“I was really happy with the way they played,” added Tate, who utilized many of his first-year bench players through the second half. “We withstood the natural push from Westshore after going up.”

Up next the Vikes will play visitors to the Castaway Wanderers on Sept. 15 and that game will count towards both the BC Rugby Premier League and Barnard Cup standings. The season change-up will see the Vikes play each lower mainland team only once this year, while the island teams will have additional games towards the Barnard Cup.