Prior to the provincial high school AA girls rugby final on Saturday afternoon, Madi Blakeburn recalled in vivid detail the last time she stepped onto the pitch against Shawnigan Lake.
It was not a pleasant memory.
Blakeburn, the star fullback for the Robert Bateman Timberwolves, was one of nine current Bateman seniors who endured a devastating 54-5 defeat against Shawnigan Lake in the B.C. semifinals back in 2008. The T-Wolves had come into that provincial tournament as the top seed, but Shawnigan Lake delivered a painful lesson in big-game intensity.
On Saturday, Blakeburn and the Timberwolves showed they’d taken that lesson to heart, turning in a gritty effort to beat Shawnigan Lake 8-3 in double overtime and win the first provincial girls championship in any sport in school history.
Blakeburn delivered the biggest play of the game, out-racing Shawnigan Lake defenders to the right corner to score the game-winning try in the second extra session.
“We learned a lot from that game (in 2008),” Blakeburn said. “It taught us that if you get scored on, you can’t put your head down. Because if you do that, that’s when you lose it.
“You have to keep your intensity up. You can’t stop fighting until the game is over.”
Blakeburn and her Bateman teammates had seemingly endless reserves of fight and determination during Saturday’s AA title game, contested at South Surrey’s Semiahmoo Secondary.
Bateman’s Madi Borrows opened the scoring with a penalty kick 10 minutes in, but Shawnigan Lake quickly equalized on a kick of their own.
Shawnigan Lake advanced the ball deep into Bateman territory shortly thereafter, but the T-Wolves made a huge stand to maintain the 3-3 draw at halftime.
The second half and first overtime session were a back-and-forth defensive battle, but the T-Wolves were finally able to generate some offence in the second OT. The Bateman forward pack crashed the ball almost all the way down the field, drawing Shawnigan Lake defenders in to try to slow their progress. That created an opportunity to spin the ball out wide to Blakeburn, who capitalized with a try.
There were still three minutes left on the clock, but the T-Wolves stopped Shawnigan Lake’s last-gasp drive.
“I almost started crying, I was so excited,” said Karli Funk, who co-captains the T-Wolves along with Blakeburn. “That was the toughest game I’ve played in my entire life.
“Coming in, we knew we had to fight for it. It was not only for us, but also for the girls on that (2008) team.”
Bateman’s road to the championship featured victories over Ladysmith (19-5) and Columneetza (34-0) in pool play on Thursday, and a 22-0 win over Heritage Park of Mission in the semifinals on Friday. Kara Earnshaw had a huge game against the Highlanders, scoring all four Bateman tries.
Blakeburn was named to the President’s XV all-star team.
Bateman coach Jeff Dods called his team’s effort in the title game “inspiring.”
“They knew what it took, and they didn’t panic once,” Dods enthused. “They’d been there before, and their composure was formidable.
“They’re such a nice group of girls, and they really deserve it. I feel bad for Shawnigan, though – that wasn’t a game that anyone deserved to lose. It was quite a war.”
PANTHERS FOURTH AT AAA B.C.'s
The Abbotsford Collegiate Panthers finished just shy of the podium at the AAA girls rugby championships.
The No. 8-seeded Panthers opened with a 41-7 victory over Mt. Boucherie of Westbank, with outside centre Natalie Teteris scoring three tries. In the quarter-finals against third-seeded G.P. Vanier, Abby Collegiate got a try from Meagan Pauls on the last play of the game, and Tiffany Picketts's convert lifted the Panthers to a thrilling 26-24 victory.
The Panthers dropped a 46-0 semifinal decision the Carson Graham Eagles, the eventual gold medallists, followed by a hard-fought 13-10 defeat to the Semiahmoo Totems in the bronze medal game.
The South Surrey side opened an early 8-0 lead, but Abby Collegiate rallied for a 10-8 advantage on tries by Teteris and Picketts. The Totems scored a go-ahead try with 10 minutes remaining, and the Panthers were unable to reply.
Pauls, the Panthers' captain, was named to the President's XV.
FINAL RANKINGS FOR AA
- Robert Bateman
- Shawnigan Lake
- Heritage Park
- Wiliam Lake
- Brentwood College
- Clayton Heights
FINAL RANKINGS FOR AAA
- Carson Graham
- Queen Elizabeth
- North Surrey
- Maple Ridge
- Mt. Boucherie