Towhee vs. eagle is a mismatch on paper. But it certainly wasn’t Saturday afternoon at Klahanie Park in North Vancouver.
The G.P. Vanier Towhees defeated the Carson Graham Eagles 39-14 to win their second straight B.C. AAA high school girls rugby championship – and settle an old score.
It was the Towhees’ third straight appearance in the provincial final, and head coach Dwayne Mills said the first was three years ago on the same field against the same opponent.
“We lost. It was a close game,” Mills said. “It was our first kick at the can and we were very overwhelmed and inexperienced. It was good to get another shot at them three years later.”
Mills credited the repeat to a solid core of players. “We had a lot of starters back from last year. That made our life easier, for sure.
“Our strong players played really well. We did have some young kids really step up and play well too. It’s nice having a foundation,” Mills said
“We have three players who are kind of the main pillars of our team – Madi Gold, Dawson German and Lauren Sargent. Everything goes through them. They control the game. They were always there setting the pace and dictating the play to the other team.”
The Towhees have suffered their share of injuries this season, so when they opened play Thursday as B.C. #1 against #8 Elgin Park, the decision was made to rest the starters.
“We started some of our junior players and Elgin pushed us a little bit. It was 5-0 at the half for us. We put the starters on in the second half, took control and dictated play” in a 27-5 win. Vanier tries came through Keely Orrick (2), Sargent, Dawson and Gold.
Mills said Elgin was a tougher challenge than the Towhees second game against #4 Semiahmoo on Thursday.
“We came out hard. This time we started our starting group. They controlled the game, set the pace and we won handily 48-5,” Mills said
“They’re a young, up and coming team and had some injuries. We asserted our dominance on them. We were too strong and too fast.” Gold scored four tries to go along with one each by German, Kelsey Barton, Louise Eriksson and Sabrina Becker.
On Saturday the Towhees took on the #3 Eagles in a “battle of the birds” for B.C. bragging rights.
Mills said Vanier took control right from the opening kickoff against the younger Carson Graham squad. “Dawson scored a try in the first minute and it went from there,” said Mills.
“They’re really strong in the forwards, so our game plan was to use our backs to get around them and our girls executed perfectly. Our surprise player of the game in that one was Kelsey Barton – she had her best game by far that I’ve ever seen her play.
“She scored two tries and on both she ran down the wing, went toe to toe with her opponent and muscled her way through. She’s a small kid, but she just willed herself through. That really impressed me.”
German also tallied two tries with Sargent, Ashley Heryet and Chloe Baird-Titcomb contributing one each. Vanier led 32-0 at the half and put in some of their juniors, with the Eagles putting up two late tries.
Mills was pleased he was able to use each of his 28 players in all three games: “not always easy to do when you’re chasing a championship,” he noted.
Gold was named to the President’s XV while Sargent received the Vancouver Island Girls Rugby Bursary.
The Towhees graduate 11 players this year, of which nine are starters. Mills said it will be a bit of a rebuild year next season, but says the team will still be strong.
“We have a lot of young talent coming up, especially with our junior program. But they’re ready. We’ll still be competitive, but it will definitely be significantly harder for us next year.”