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Port Alberni Black Sheep claim TC Cup as Vancouver Island rugby champions

Rugby team headed into the playoffs second in the province after edging Nanaimo in cup nailbiter
The Port Alberni Black Sheep are the 2023 Times Colonist Cup champions. (PHOTO COURTESY TANYA SHANNON)

The Port Alberni Black Sheep rugby team has won the Times Colonist Cup.

The Port Alberni team travelled to Nanaimo on Saturday, March 25 for a “see-saw” game that came down to the final minutes. The Black Sheep scored on the last play of the game to pick up a 27-26 victory and claim the TC Cup for the first time since 2015.

The TC Cup is awarded each year to the top team on Vancouver Island. Port Alberni was originally scheduled to host a TC Cup game against Nanaimo on Feb. 25, but this game was cancelled by the BC Rugby Union due to inclement weather.

The Black Sheep opened the scoring last Saturday with a penalty goal from Todd Daradics, followed by a try from Riley Savard that put the visiting team up 8-0. The Hornets picked off a pass to make the score 8-7, but Port Alberni’s Gavin Purewal scored a try on a pass from Asaeli Rokotuiwakaya to give the Black Sheep a 15-7 lead going into halftime.

“For the first half, we controlled 75 to 85 percent of the possession,” explained head coach Jas Purewal. “We just didn’t score enough. Nanaimo had great defence.”

The second half started with the Black Sheep taking a yellow card. Both teams exchanged tries, then Nanaimo “started to put on the pressure,” said Purewal, and scored two tries to take the lead, 26-20, with only four minutes remaining.

But the Black Sheep were able to respond, and Jack Rokotuiwakaya scored a try—converted by Daradics—to take the 27-26 win.

“It was a huge effort from our guys to not give up when they were down,” said Purewal. “Young Aaron [Badovinac] had a great day defensively, and it was a great day for the tight five.”

Winning the TC Cup was “pretty special” for the Black Sheep, said Purewal. The team finished second in the province in BC Rugby league play this season, and will be hosting James Bay on Saturday, April 1 for Round One of the 16-round playoffs. Kick off is at 12:45 p.m.

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Elena Rardon

About the Author: Elena Rardon

I have worked with the Alberni Valley News since 2016.
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