The 1st XV rugby squad travelled to Abbotsford May 27-30 to take part in the BC AA Championships. Among other things at stake, following the successes of SMUS’s Senior boys soccer and basketball teams, was the opportunity to complete a rare “Triple Crown” of provincial titles.
In the quarterfinals, No. 2 seeded SMUS took on Richmond’s Hugh McRoberts. Still smarting from a 10-5 loss to the Strikers in the bronze medal game a year ago, the Blue Jags took a stranglehold from the fourth minute on, when fullback Max Pollen finished a length of the field team try. Further tallies then followed at regular intervals, with Lucas De Vries (4) and centre Mitchell Newman (2) running strongly. The ever-reliable Matty McColl added eight conversions and a penalty goal in a comprehensive 74-0 victory.
Up front, both Angus and Liam Catto played extremely well, controlling the restarts and combining consistently at the line-out.
The following day, SMUS met Collingwood in a much anticipated Final Four match-up. In its best performance of the season, the Blue Jags took control early en route to a decisive win. After McColl opened the scoring with a well-struck penalty, De Vries went over under the posts following a beautifully executed back line move. Another McColl penalty goal and a plunge for the line by Aidan Cole right on the stroke of halftime took the score to 18-0.
Unlike 2013, when Collingwood recovered from a late 11-point deficit to upend SMUS 27-24, this time the Blue Jags kept the pressure on. Early in the second half, de Vries finished off a superb 70-metre counterattack try, before Owen Sudul then notched a further score in the left corner after a searing Josh Graffi break. Indeed, more slick interplay could have produced yet another tally, but the move was cancelled out by a penalty award on the goal line for a perceived double movement.
While two late Collingwood tries narrowed the final margin to 30-12, SMUS was full value for the win. After consecutive semi-final disappointments in 2012, 2013 and 2014, it was on to the final.
After a much needed rest day, SMUS duly took on top ranked Rockridge for the championship. After injury interrupted seasons, locks Aidan McCleary and Noah Pryce-Baff were fit enough to take the field, and, in concert with prop Dante Morandin, provided more experience, power and bulk. All three played a key part, and, with the rest of the pack, more than neutralized the Ravens’ heavy forwards.
A tense and tight opening half saw SMUS the more adventurous of the two teams. Half backs Carson Smith and Graeme Hyde-Lay combined well to free the outside backs, with Newman and Pollen both very dangerous on attack. Yet, plenty of defensive work was also required. Graffi and Warren Marriott did extremely well to turn over possession close to the Blue Jags’ try line, before McColl then opened the scoring with a well-struck penalty goal.
SMUS, up 3-0 and facing a freshening wind, made the best start possible to the second half when Liam Catto claimed the kickoff. A forward drive produced a penalty, with McColl doing the honours to take the score to 6-0.
In the next 15 minutes, SMUS, aided by the introduction of flankers Josh Kahn and Myles Duncan, moved the ball wide at every opportunity. Rockridge searched for its own openings closer to the rucks, only to be denied by some resolute tackling.
The SMUS breakthrough came at last when a neatly angled kick from Hyde-Lay settled nicely near the corner flag for de Vries to recover and dot down. When McColl added a superb touchline conversion and then another penalty, victory seemed a certainty.
However, Rockridge battled on, closing the score to 16-7 after a fine 50-metre run down the touchline by the right winger. However, SMUS responded immediately with a Pollen chip handcuffing the defence. In the ensuing in-goal scramble, Newman capped an outstanding all-round performance by claiming the try. The conversion moved the score to 23-7, with the final whistle coming just a minute later.
Congratulations to the entire team, which, after an April 8 loss to Oak Bay in the Boot Game, won its final 10 matches, captured the coveted blue BC Secondary Schools Championship banner and so secured the “Triple Crown.”