Over 380 age grade rugby players will assemble at UBC this weekend (April 25-27) for the 2014 BC Rugby High School Provincial Sevens Championships.
For the second straight year, BC Rugby has partnered with the BC High School Girls Rugby Association (BCHSGRA) and BC Secondary Schools Rugby Union (BCSSRU) to host the tournament featuring Sevens rugby, a sport set to make its debut at the Olympics in 2016.
The G.P. Vanier Towhees have teams in both the girls and boys competition.
The girls competition will run Friday through Saturday (April 25-26) and the boys competition is set for Saturday through Sunday (April 26-27). 16 teams will be competing in round-robin tournaments with the hopes of qualifying for the Cup stages on day two.
Both the girls and boys tournaments will mirror the IRB Sevens World Series format with a Cup (1st), Plate (5th), Bowl (9th) and Shield (13th) all up for grabs.
Defending girls champions Cowichan enter the 2014 championships as the #7 seed. The Thunderbirds lifted the 2013 provincial title in thrilling fashion last April, when Adriene Saari scored deep into extra time to down Lord Tweedsmuir by a score of 17-12.
The Towhees are the #5 seed and will play Pool A games Friday against #9 Lake City, #13 McMath and #1 Robert Bateman.
The tournament is now seen as a major event on the high school calendar with representation from across the province vying for a title.
“This tournament is very important to the High School Girls Rugby Association as it’s another pathway for our athletes to be successful in rugby,” said Brad Baker, BCHSGRA president. “It’s a tournament that is really growing and we have all our zones represented this weekend. With the IRB (International Rugby Board) and Rugby Canada now promoting Sevens as an Olympic sport, it really gives legitimacy to this as a girls sport as well.”
The tournament will feature several returning powerhouse programs including Robert Bateman, Shawnigan Lake School, Elgin Park and Cowichan Secondary. But this year’s tournament is also set to feature new teams in Salmon Arm who qualified for the first time, as well as Lake City, now a product of Columneetza and Williams Lake’s recent merger.
“The exciting thing about this tournament is that anyone can win it,” said Jen Ross, head coach of Robert Bateman. “Every year the calibre of play has improved and the skill levels of the girls are more impressive. Mirroring the women’s game, teams are bigger, stronger and faster. Everyone has a surprise in their back pockets – whether it’s a new unknown player or a great desire to bring home the title. Anything can happen.”
The Timberwolves feature several provincial reps and a veteran core.
“We have a solid group of girls that have played together all year round and that has helped us transition into sevens. We have so many girls involved in rugby at Bateman and there was some strong competition to make this squad,” Ross added.
“Lauren Kerr’s Sevens experience will be invaluable this week as she leads the Wolves into her last provincial sevens tournament,” Ross added. “Another senior who we will look to for leadership will be Katie Farnell. Katie played no.8 for us last year but came back to us faster, fitter and stronger than ever and has moved to the backs where she has been outstanding.”
The girls high school championships get underway on Friday at 12:00pm with Bateman facing no.13 seed McMath. Friday’s pool rounds will run until 5:30 p.m. Qualifying rounds are set for a 9:20 a.m. start on Saturday morning with the Cup Final slated for 4:20 p.m.
Pool A: Robert Bateman, GP Vanier, Lake City, McMath.
Pool B: Shawnigan, Abbotsford, Semiahmoo, Belmont.
Pool C: Elgin Park, Cowichan, McRoberts, Salmon Arm.
Pool D: Houston, Yale, Stelly’s, Elgin Park 2.
In boys Pool C, the Towhees face top-seeded Robert Bateman Timberwolves and Glenlylon-Norfolk on Saturday and Argyle on Sunday.
The boys competition has been altered slightly from the previous year and will now feature two pool games on day one, with the third and final pool match to be played on day two prior to the playoff rounds.
Reigning champions St. George’s School head into provincials with the number one overall seed and will look to down Mountain Secondary, Carson Graham and Handsworth in the pool rounds in order to qualify for the Cup semifinals.
The reigning champs will again feature a number of provincial reps from the BC Elite Youth Sevens program including Theo Sauder, Mark Levin, Cathal Long, Ben Scher, Phil Berna and Fraser Hurst. St. George’s senior Theo Sauder has already debuted for the Maple Leafs, Rugby Canada’s development sevens program and featured for the BCEY7’s in their runner-up finish to the High School All Americans at the Las Vegas Invitational this past January.
“Sevens has been a priority for Saints for the last 15 years and we have ben fortunate to have done consistently well over the years,” said Pat Palmer, St. George’s Sevens coach. “This year the squad has a good mix of Sevens experience, rugby skill, athleticism and flare.”
Palmer’s side will be looking to defend their title against a number of top teams from across the province, including two sides they faced in qualifying for provincials.
“I was impressed with Lord Byng and Carson Graham; they have some good athletes and are quite disciplined sides,” Palmer added. “Oak Bay is always strong and Robert Bateman could be a dark horse. You have to watch out for the teams from the Okanagan as well; they have good athletes and always come well prepared.”
The boys division will feature 16 pool games on Saturday, kicking off at 11:30 a.m. and wrapping up at 2:40 p.m. The final round of pool games is set for Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. Playoff rounds are set for 11:20 a.m. on Sunday with the Cup Final slated for a 3:50 p.m. start.
Pool A: St. George’s School, Cowichan, Mountain Secondary, Handsworth.
Pool B: Oak Bay, Lord Byng, Carson Graham, Lord Tweedsmuir.
Pool C: Robert Bateman, Glenlyon Norfolk School, Argyle Secondary, GP Vanier.
Pool D: Kelowna Secondary, Earl Marriott, Elgin Park, West Vancouver.
– BC Rugby Union