KINGSTON, ON – It was a long way from home, but after a tough fall season, the UBC Thunderbirds stood in triumph over their local rivals, topping the University of Victoria Vikes 39-7 in Kingston.
Very un-British Columbian weather backdropped an all British Columbian final, the snow having blanketed the turf pitch in a layer of white. UBC defeated the Royal Military College 66-0 and the Queens Gaels 41-20 to reach the finals, while UVic beat Dalhousie 72-0 and Guelph 29-22. The game got underway shortly past 3:30 eastern, the Thunderbirds kicking off with the snow still coming down.
With the weather against them, both teams struggled early to get grips on the ball. The play was tight and compact as the Thunderbirds and Vikes tried to get their hands all warmed up. It made sense, then, that the first try would be a scrappy one. Owain Ruttan would block a UVic kick and chase after the loose ball, diving onto it for a score in 2nd minute of the game.
The early scoring gave way to a barrage of phases from both teams. The Vikes would make steady progress before being halted by the Thunderbirds, and the opposite would also be true. Lineouts proved tricky in the conditions as the waning light also started to factor in.
UBC would earn a penalty kick with 5 minutes to go in the first half. Max Abercrombie would step up and deliver his strike through the uprights, facing down the snow and wind and coming up with a big three points. That would be the end of the scoring as both teams headed into the halftime break.
Whatever was said to UBC during the halftime break worked, as they would strike moments into the second half. Landon Clironomos would find himself a gap, breaking down the left flank and being taken down inches from the try zone. It took a couple of attempts, but the try was given soon as Alfie Scopes punched the ball in.
Only 5 minutes later would the Thunderbirds tack on more points. Through a herculean effort, Ruttan would drag half of the UVic squad along the snowy pitch, fighting through the tackles before finally being brought down. His efforts weren’t in vain though, as a couple of phases later, he would be the one that extended the lead to 18-0. Abercrombie’s kick would prove true again, pushing the gap to 20.
The Vikes would get one back in turn. In the 14th minute, off a scrum, the captain Jonas Robinson sprinted to the outside, cutting right and finding the weak spot in the UBC defense. He dived into the snowy try zone to score the first points of the day for his team. The kick scoring as well, they cut the lead to 13.
That would be all she wrote for the Vikes as the Thunderbirds would close out the game with scores of their own. Scopes scored a try from short range to restore the 20 point lead, and another try in the 27th would extend the margin to 25. That wouldn’t be it though, as with the last play of the match, Ethan Berry would go on a marauding run himself, breaking a couple of ankles en route to an emphatic 39-7 scoreline.
This marks the 3rd national championship won by the Thunderbirds, having claimed three out of the four in this young tournament’s history. They dethrone the reigning champions as well, having been defeated by the Vikes in the 2019 edition of this event. The application for Men’s Rugby to become a U SPORTS sanctioned sport is already underway.