Nine Teams Fly the Flag for BC Rugby at 2019 Las Vegas Invitational

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The BC Elite Youth Sevens Girls' U16 Gold Team pose with their trophy and teammates from the U16 Blue Team (6th) - Image courtesy of BC Rugby

The BC Rugby Teams competing in the Las Vegas Invitational this weekend produced some great results, including the Elite Youth Sevens Girls’ 1 team winning the Girls’ U16 Division.  The tournament ran from February 28-March 2 and saw hundreds of teams from across North America and beyond compete in the Nevada desert.  BC Rugby’s Elite Youth Sevens and NextGen Sevens Programs sent a combined 9 teams to the event, one of the largest ever contingents from the Province. We’ve got updates below on the achievements of each of our teams.

NextGen Men

The BC NextGen Men’s Sevens team, sponsored by Marcon, had a fantastic opening day of the 2019 LVI tournament, finishing with a perfect 3-0 record and ranking as the second seed for the knockout stages.  Their opening match against Atlanta Old White was a high scoring affair, 55 points in just 14 minutes between the two sides. Ben Cameron, Jonas Robinson, Walsham Owen, Kaprieli Vataiki and Justin Logan all contributed to the scoreline for BC as they came out on top 33-22.

Their second match didn’t have quite the same flurry of tries, but a confident performance saw them control the match well and beat Dominicana 1 by 17-0, Jonas Robinson crossing the line again along with Mostyn Findlay and a brace for Nate Tough.  Game three for the NextGen Men saw them back in high scoring mode, once again running in 33 points, this time against Legacy RA, the scores coming from Ben Cameron, Jonas Robinson,  Mitchell Sora and Mostyn Findlay.

They continued this strong performance into day 2, narrowly defeating Optimus selects 22-19.  Jonas Robinson continued to be a scoring machine for the team and was joined on the score sheet by Brandon Schellenberger, Mitchell Sora and Kapprieli Vataiki.  This win took the team into a Semi-Final against Rugby Quebec, adversaries from many Canadian Rugby Championship XVs matches over the years.  The match was an exciting encounter, but the East Coast team proved to be too much to handle on the day, BC losing the fixture 5-29 with that man Jonas Robinson providing the only points for BC.

Frustrated with this blip in their performance and determined not to walk away empty handed, the BC NextGen Men went into the Men’s Aces 3rd Place Playoff with renewed conviction and a point to prove.  In an interesting bookend to the campaign, their opponents for this last game were Atlanta Old White, the same team they had faced to kick off the tournament on day one.  The match wasn’t quite the try-fest from the day before, but BC showed they possess plenty of resilience as they took control of the game and won in convincing fashion, 22-12, Tries coming from Elliot Johnson, Mitchell Sora and Kapprieli Vataiki.

A third-place finish in the Aces Division to round off the first tournament for the BC NextGen Men, a positive result and some great potential on display.  All eyes now turn to the Vancouver Sevens Invitational where the team are defending champions.  Will they retain the title?

Elite Youth Sevens Girls

Two teams from the BC Rugby Elite Youth Sevens (EY7s) Girls Program competed in the U16 Girls’ Division in Las Vegas this year. This is the first time BC has sent more than a single U16 team to this tournament, a tribute to the tremendous growth at the U16 level in the Province.

The EY7s Blue Team was coached by Ciara Malone, a BC player through her youth one of members of the first BC Banshees team that represented the Province at the Las Vegas Invitational in 2012. She has gone on to play at UBC, represent BC, Canada Maple Leafs and play internationally in Japan. She was a great role model for Team Blue and provided them with a positive experience in what is necessary to play representative rugby. This team started strong on Day 1 with 2 wins, including a dominant 27-0 opening win over View Park Prep, and a loss to a strong Upright Rogues team. They exhibited power, speed and a relentless work rate. A young side, their inexperience at larger tournaments showed a little on Day 2, but the team finished strong making it to the plate final finishing 6th in the Girls’ U16 Division. The speed demonstrated by this young group was impressive alongside their never say die attitude.  The players will be worth keeping an eye on as they continue to grow and develop.

The BC EY7s Gold team started the tournament with an unfortunate no show from their first opponents for Game 1. They were, however, able to get their first game of the tournament out of the way in a strong fashion winning 43-0 and never looked back. Despite only having a single practice session in Vegas and never having played together as a team, this group was dynamic and showed that the level of play at the U16 level is advancing. Their athleticism, individual skills and ability to gel together as a unit was impressive. The team was led by two veterans Esita Qiodravu and Halle Smith, but it was a true team effort for this group with everyone having an outstanding tournament. The team finished with an impressive PF/PA record, scoring a total of 181 points and conceding just 27.  The BC EY7s Gold team marched confidently to the U16 Girls’ Division Final where they met a strong Fallbrook Red team.  A hotly contested battle for the silverware, both sides fought with passion and purpose.  The glory would finally fall to BC EY7s Gold, securing the title with a final try in the last play of the game.

Head Coach Darcy Patterson was full of praise for the players, “In the 4 years of coaching this program, I have never seen a better level of play at the U16 level.  Overall, the success of both of these teams shows the development pathway of rugby in BC is on the right track. This is thanks to all the club, high school and representative coaches working together to create a strong foundation for these players.”

The action now shifts to UBC this week for the Vancouver Sevens Invitational.  Three regionally based U16 BC teams will be playing at the VSI tournament on March 7-8, taking on teams from Edmonton, Manitoba and Thunder Rugby.

Elite Youth Sevens Boys

The presence from the BC Rugby Elite Youth Sevens Boys’ Program at 2019 Las Vegas Invitational could not have been more different from the previous year.  Leaping from a single U18 Boys’ team to a total of six teams spanning U16, U17 and U18, the EY7s Boys had already made a statement before the first match kicked off.  Head Coach Adam Roberts has kicked the program up another year since Fall 2018, attracting the attention of hundreds of Age-Grade male players and showing that there is some great potential in the making.

Two EY7s Boys’ teams took part in each of the HS Elite (U18), HS Open (U17) and U16 7s Divisions at the tournament this year, racking up an impressive 32 combined matches between them against some tough opposition from across the USA, Canada and beyond.  Despite some intensive training weekend and mock fixtures, the LVI was the first significant test of team strength and fortitude that many in the EY7s Boys’ sides had faced.

“From a rugby perspective the tournament really started slowly for most of the teams” commented Roberts, “The size and physicality of the boys in America is impressive.  At all levels, we were up against kids a year older due to the rugby age cut-off differences between Canada and the USA. But our boys stuck in and worked hard and were better every game.”

Fortunes varied across each of the six teams representing BC, the standout performance coming from BC EY7s 1 in the Boys’ HS Elite Division, where the team made it all the way to the final, only to narrowly lose out in a 19-24 loss to EIRA Red.  EIRA, the Eagle Impact Rugby Academy is one of the USA’s preeminent academies and common opponents in the summer season against the BC Age-Grade XVs Rep teams.  To have gone toe-to-toe with an outfit like EIRA and pushed them all the way is a great achievement in itself.

The final standings for each of the BC EY7s Boys’ teams are as follows:

BC EY7s 1 (HS Elite Division) – 2nd
BC EY7s 2 (HS Elite Division) – 11th
BC EY7s 1 (HS Open Division) – 9th
BC EY7s 1 (HS Open Division) – 5th
BC EY7s 1 (U16 Division) – 5th
BC EY7s 1 (U16 Division) – 15th

Many of the players from these teams will be seen at the Vancouver Sevens Invitational on March 7-8 this week at UBC where they will face teams from the likes of Edmonton, Manitoba and Washington.

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