One of the keenest rivalries in B.C. high school sports was renewed Saturday at Brentwood Bay when the G.P. Vanier Towhees took on the Cowichan Thunderbirds for the Vancouver Island AAA senior girls rugby championship.
This is the seventh year in a row Vanier has played Cowichan in the Island final and every game has been a close battle, noted Vanier coach Dwayne Mills. This year Cowichan is ranked #1 in the province and defeated Vanier twice during league play. But Vanier was ready to play as for the first time in two months they fielded a full starting lineup as a number of players fought through injuries to strap on the cleats.
From the opening kickoff it was a battle as both teams sought to assert themselves, yet neither was successful. Buoyed by the return of Claire Janssen and newly named captain Georgia Bellamy, the Vanier forwards put constant pressure on the Cowichan pack as they struggled to move the ball down the field, while the backs under the direction of Emily Vossler moved the ball well around the field. Despite some excellent runs by inside centre Madi Gold, the score remained tied at half time.
In the second half the Vanier girls increased their pressure and pace to force Cowichan deep into their end and after a kick to try to relieve the Vanier attack, fullback Samantha Rumney ran the ball back and successfully scored in the corner. A very narrow miss on a very difficult convert by Emma Rigsby opened the door for Cowichan to strike back as they sensed an upset in the making.
Over the final 15 minutes Cowichan maintained constant pressure in the Vanier end, but the Towhee girls dug deep under the hard defence of flankers Gloria Vankerrebroek and Danelle Campbell and the outside defence of backs Kassandra Sewell and Sienna Moir.
Unfortunately, on the last play of the game, Cowichan outworked the exhausted Vanier scrum and stole the ball only to score a few phases later during injury time. The convert was unsuccessful, the teams headed to sudden death overtime.
The Vanier girls, despite losing a number of starters throughout the game due to injuries, continued to fight in the overtime, but the well-conditioned Cowichan squad capitalized on some mental miscues to score between the posts three minutes in to win 10-5.
It was a great showing by the Vanier girls who are finally beginning to become a more cohesive group after a season full of injuries and roster turn-over. Fortunately they are peaking at the right time and with this close loss to the #1-ranked Cowichan team they have realized that they have the potential to beat any team in the province. The Towhees now move on to the BCHSGRA provincial championships at UBC on May 22-25.
– Vanier Towhees Rugby