Victoria was abuzz this past weekend as their hometown Victoria Vikes captured the men’s national rugby championship. It was their first championship since the national title returned two years ago, with their previous one coming all the way back in 1997.
The Vikes defeated their BC and Legends Cup rivals the UBC Thunderbirds, in a match which pitted many familiar faces against one another. The victory spelled the end of two consecutive championships for the T-Birds, as Victoria became the only other team to win the trophy since the tournaments resurrection,
On the field the game was very tight, ending by the smallest of margins at 21-20. Both teams knew each other very well, playing many times throughout the season, which contributed to the tactical efficiencies on display in the match. It;’s also what allowed the Vikes to re-adjust their game to come back from the 12-0 deficit they found themselves in after the first half.
In n interview with the Times Colonist after the victory, Victoria head coach Doug Tate spoke about the rivalry between the two teams, saying “UVic-UBC is a great rivalry and these players know each other well from high school and provincial and national teams.”
There were a lot of familiar faces for both teams, as many of the players have been teammates in high school or at variouse levels of the provincial and national rugby system. One school which was overwhelmingly represented was that of St. Georges School in Vancouver. The all-boys private school has regularly had alumni on the senior national teams, and one would be hard-pressed to find a BC team sheet without a connection to St. George’s. Between the two final rosters, there were six players who attended the private school. The Vancouver institute is where many of the players were first exposed to the game, and also where they began to garner the attention of university coaches. Jack Scheer and spencer cooper, two recent graduates of the school played a key role for their teams throughout the tournament, with the latter being named to the second all-star team.
Much like St.George’s, but on an even greater level, the victoria vikes have consistently put their players into important roles within the Canadian rugby system. Alumni such as Phil Mack and Nathan Hirayama all once wore the Vikes jerseys before dawning Canada’s red and white.
That’s just alumni though; at this tournament the Vikes were led by Canada U-20 players James O’Neill and Lockie Kratz along with the play of Thomas Di Fiore, Spencer Cooper, Jenner Teufel, Ben Newhook, Logan Martin-Feek and Nick Carson, certainly a pretty good class of players.
UBC’s Thunderbirds are certainly no small fish, as they have influenced the national game to a similar extent as victoria.
Victory for the Vike’s is important on so many levels. It shows that there is at least some parity in the Canadian collegiate rugby game and that even the best schools can be taken down by smart and skilled play. The season is not over for either team though, as they continue to play in their regional leagues against clubs near them. They will face off against each other on March 14th, as part of the BC Premier Rugby League.