A season of firsts for the G.P. Vanier Towhees AAA girls rugby team continued this past weekend (May 24-26) at the 2012 B.C. championships in Vancouver as they posted their best-ever finish – second place – at the tourney.
The Courtenay crew, fresh off their first-ever Vancouver Island championships, were ranked third and had high hopes going into the provincials.
Their first game Thursday against Lord Tweedsmuir from the Fraser Valley served as a wake-up call for the powerful Vanier squad as they quickly fell behind 14-5 in the first half due to a series of mental errors that allowed their athletic Tweedsmuir rivals to capitalize.
Fortunately, due to the efforts of winger Samantha Rumney with three tries and the stunning kicking of fullback Chelsea Tancon who accounted for 15 points, the team was able to claw back and finish with a 34-14 victory and a ticket to the top four of the tournament.
The second game against traditional rivals, the Gleneagle Talons, proved no easier for the determined Vanier team as the rough and aggressive Talons put consistent pressure on the Vanier backs who were led by captain Dana Beirnes and scrum half Emily Vossler.
Despite some tense moments, a try by Beirnes followed by a convert by Tancon sealed a 7-5 victory and gave the Towhees their first-ever appearance in the provincial finals – where perennial powerhouse Carson Graham was waiting.
Winner of the past six provincial championships and host of this year’s tournament, the Carson Graham Eagles were an intimidating opponent for the small-town Vanier club and they were ready to play after defeating eventual third-place finishers Cowichan by over 50 points.
Feeling the pressure, Vanier stumbled in the first two minutes of the game as the crowd cheered Carson on to a quick try. But Vanier rallied on the resulting kickoff and started to show Carson a game that they would not easily forget.
The rest of the half was dominated by the Vanier forward pack as Claire Janssen, Georgia Bellamy, Sarah Schienbein, Karissa Comer, Stephanie Mackinnon, Kelly Hillis, Katelyn Barefoot and Gloria Vankerrebroek asserted their will upon Carson and controlled the rucking and scrums. While the forwards were dictating play in the middle of the field, the backs, through the astute kicking of Tancon, were playing a precision kicking game to force the Carson on their heels. Every attempt by Carson to relieve the pressure was answered by a strong return by wingers Rumney and Madi Gold.
Unfortunately, the end of the first half resulted in a 7-0 lead for Carson based on their early try.
In the second half Vanier was finally rewarded for their efforts as Molly Florian, Andraya Walters, and Beirnes led a charge down the field which resulted in Rumney scoring on the wing with the help of Tancon. Despite the missed convert and a 7-5 deficit, the Towhees were eager to capitalize on their increasing momentum.
They again pushed their way down the field into Carson’s red zone and as Rumney touched down what appeared to be her fifth try of the tournament, the touch judge waved it back due to a cleat mark on the touch line. Carson, under continued pressure from the Vanier squad, pushed back down the field and were rewarded with a penalty kick near Vanier’s 22-metre line, which tournament standout Jessica Neilson successfully kicked to increase Carson’s lead to 10-5. As time wound down, Vanier continued to fight for territory and against the rampant crowd support of Carson Graham but they were unsuccessful and the final result remained 10-5.
The second-place finish is the best result for the Vanier girls rugby team at provincials and even though they lost, they remained proud of their efforts throughout the season, a team spokesperson said. It was particularly special for the team to have Jim Milne, the forefather of girls’ rugby at Vanier, to watch their efforts on the field.
– Vanier Towhees rugby