The SMUS tennis team started league play this week with a rather epic match against GNS on Wednesday. In team tennis, the schools play a total of eleven sets, so the first team to win six sets wins the match. SMUS started off slowly and GNS was fielding an unexpectedly deep team this year, and SMUS found themselves down 5 sets to 4 with our A doubles girls down 4 games to 1.
Thankfully, Sammy Davis and Priya Mulgaonkar displayed excellent hustle and worked their way back to a 6-4 victory. As the sets stood at 5 apiece, the match came down to our mixed doubles team of Paula Weech and Justus Koenigs. Both had won their singles matches, with Justus rolling in his at 6-1 and Paula battling to win 6-4 against a very strong opponent. The doubles match was extremely close as a substitution made by the GNS team presented a greater challenge to Justus and Paula. However, after being broken on match point with the games at 5-4, Justus and Paula displayed mental toughness and pulled it out in the tiebreaker, winning both the set and overall match 6-5 and helping us take our first baby-step toward provincials.
The team also played an exhibition match against Claremont on Friday. While the match had no bearing on our provincial goals, it was great to give everyone a chance to play after our long layoff. Everyone played hard and played well, with Mitch Wiggins and Alfredo Gonzalez forming what could potentially be a very strong doubles team.
A week after touring Scotland and Ireland, the Senior rugby squad had the chance to reciprocate the hospitality shown by the High School of Glasgow, who were in Victoria over the Easter weekend. At stake, for the 15th time between the two schools, was the Mike Walsh Cup, named after the venerable former SMUS teacher who guided the 1st XV so successfully from 1968 to 1987.
The hundreds of spectators on hand were treated to a marvellous game, with SMUS doing everything except winning! Ten early points were gifted to the opposition, courtesy of a pair of blocked kicks and fumbling at the back, before a sweet scissors move saw the Glasgow squad move further in front at 17-0.
Heavy SMUS return pressure was not immediately rewarded, as wings Alex Economou and Taylor Bridge were each bundled into the corner flag with tries beckoning. Finally, Alex Harvey, on the stroke of halftime, dotted down, with an excellent Eric Beban conversion from wide out making the halftime score 17-7.
SMUS kept up the pressure after the break, with Jure Erlic closing the deficit to five points after a well-worked try. Next, a long run out of defense by Mike Fuailefau produced yet another score to tie the game with twelve minutes to play.
While HSOG went in front 20-17 with a penalty goal, another sweeping move saw SMUS camped hard on the opposition line and looking for the go-ahead points. Then disaster stuck, when a pass was intercepted and returned the length of the field for a backbreaking score. 27-17, and although Economou, after some sweet handling, did reply for SMUS, time ran out in what was, ultimately, a frustrating 27-22 defeat.
To the HSOG’s credit, they cashed in on every single scoring chance and kicked all their goals. In contrast, while SMUS won the try count 4-3, five missed place kicks told a telling tale.
The team then regrouped for the April 12 visit of Carson Graham. Perhaps it was the lunch kickoff time that led to a dozy start, but SMUS went down 11-0 within eight minutes. Eventually, after the introduction of Brad Sawyer, Robbie Trusler and Joe Furness into the pack, things turned around, with four excellent-multi phase tries by Erlic, Fuailefau, Economou and Alex Harvey paving the way for what became a 28-17 victory. Best of all, thrown into an unaccustomed goal kicking role, scrum half Marc van der Wal slotted four impressive conversions, three of them from the touchline!
The 2nd XV went down 27-0 to Carson Graham, in a game that in no way reflected the run of play. Numerous promising SMUS attacks foundered at the critical moment, while, to their credit, the Eagles finished off their opportunities. No. 8 Logan McColl, flyhalf Colin Smith and centre Jakobus le Roux all played extremely well.
Next up for teams are matches on April 20, with the 1st XV hosting Yale while the 2nd XV visits Brentwood College.
Junior Boys Rugby
The Junior boys rugby season got underway this past week, with the Grade 10 team playing in the Claremont Spartan Invitational Tournament before then taking on BC powerhouse Carson Graham of North Vancouver.
Lack of size is certainly going to be an issue with the Grade 10 squad, and will put an absolute premium on tackling and defensive organization.
The term opened with a narrow win over South Kamloops, whose narrow route-one approach proved difficult to defend. However, a late try from wing Alex Davies, converted by flyhalf Derek Hyde-Lay, proved just enough in a 12-5 victory. No. 8 Jeff Nishima, centres Joe Erlic and Dave Pollen, and prop Jacky Chuang (playing in his first ever game) led from the front throughout.
The team then matched up against an impressive Lamorinda RFC. The extremely well-drilled Californians scored twice early, and controlled play throughout the match. However, a stiff rearguard action did well to limit the damage to 22-12, with Erlic showing some fine running ability to notch a well-deserved tally.
Against Carson Graham, a top-three BC consensus pick, it was simply a case of SMUS facing significantly heavier and more powerful opponents. The team did wonderfully well to stay in touch before halftime, with a Quinn Kliman try as well as a Hyde-Lay conversion and penalty goal keeping the score to a manageable 17-10. However, four second-half Eagles’ tallies pushed the scoreline to 43-10 before Peter Harrison, capping an excellent game, managed a consolation effort.
In addition to Nishima, prop Jason Duvenage and flanker Marcel Sanati performed well in what, overall, was a brave and very committed team performance.
At the Grade 9 level, it was somewhat the same, as despite the best efforts of Fynn Kehl, Keenan Manhas, Sam Reid and Wayne Lin, SMUS fell 33-17. No. 8 Marcus Lelewski was a danger with ball in hand, running in two tries, while locks Brady Watkins and Charles Gannon got through a lot of work in the rucks and mauls.
All players can now look forward to the Father-Son touch tournament on April 17, before returning to training in preparation for away games in Ladysmith on April 22.