In a game of monumental importance on Saturday, Oct 29, the Abbotsford Elite men earned a two point win over Burnaby to secure qualification for the CDI Premier division. The match was an entertaining one, with the lead changing hands several times over the course of the game. Abbotsford eventually scored a late converted try to come from behind and win 24-22.

There have been some changes to the BC Men's rugby leagues this year. The current fall competition for elite teams involves a Mainland Cup and an Island Cup. Eight teams from the mainland and five teams from the island compete for these respective cups. From these thirteen teams, eight qualify for the CDI Premiership, coined by many as the top men's rugby league in Canada.

Five teams pre-qualified for this competition based on results from last spring's Premier competition (Oak Bay, Meralomas, UBCOB Ravens, UVic, and James Bay). The final three spots have been the focus point of the fall competition. Capilano, the only team to beat Abbotsford this half, finished first in the mainland league to secure the 6th spot in the Premiership. With the win over Burnaby, Abbotsford finished 2nd in the league and clinched the 7th spot. The final berth will be determined in a playoff between Burnaby, Bayside, Rowers, and Velox over the next three weeks. Bayside and Burnaby have both been fierce competitors this fall and unfortunately at least one of them will not make the CDI Premiership.

Keeping the Premier qualification structure in mind, the game between Abbotsford and Burnaby was of significant importance. Both teams had equal records coming into the match, with Burnaby ahead by one point in the standings courtesy of an additional bonus point.

Although there was no rain on the day, heavy downpours from the night before and three previous matches left field conditions slick and muddy.

Abbotsford opened the scoring with a wide ball that found wing Graeme MacRury streaking into the corner after a well executed back play and release pass from Shea Bourquin. MacRury again found the endzone when Gareth Bartlett set him free on the outside for a 40 meter sprint down the sideline. The two unconverted tries put the score at 10-0 in favour of the local Abbotsford squad.

Midway through the first half, Burnaby answered. They put together multiple phases and managed to move the ball outside of the Abbotsford defenders and scored on the outside. The convert sailed wide and left the score at 10-5. Burnaby wasn't finished applying pressure to the boys in black and red. They put together another strong drive and punched through the Abbotsford defense to score their second major, this one converted. The white and blue visitors now led 12-10. Burnaby added to their lead with a penalty kick, taking advantage of an Abbotsford penalty, and widened the gap to 15-10. 

Abbotsford responded, hoping to notch a score before half. The local team applied significant pressure off the kickoff, and put together a number of phases that brought them inside the Burnaby red zone. Abbotsford pounded away at the Burnaby defense until hooker Some Mosogau drove across the line for a score. The try was converted by Chris Gilding to put Abbotsford up 17-15 where the score remained until the half time whistle.

The second half was an exhibition of stiff defence, typical of such a close match. Burnaby eventually broke through the Abbotsford defense after multiple phases and crossed the line for a converted try about 25 minutes in. At 22-17 in favour of the visitors, the large crowd of over 500 was on edge and the Abby boys knew they had to make something happen.

Fortunately for the local team, luck was on their side. Burnaby had a shot at goal and pushed the kick just wide. With under 5 minutes in the game, the Abbotsford boys found some space wide, eventually moving the ball again to MacRury. Running out the space, the speedy winger kicked the ball forward where it eluded a defender and took a fortuitous bounce right back into his hands. He evaded the last recovering defender and scored under the posts. Patrick Shields put the important convert through to put the Abbotsford team up by two. 

With about three minutes left, Burnaby showed that they weren't finished. They mounted an attack that went nearly 20 phases and brought them just outside the Abbotsford 22 meter. The local squad fought tooth and nail to defend the onslaught. Forwards "Man of the Match" Chris Chalmers led the defensive charge for Abbotsford, laying some monstrous hits. The Abbotsford boys were able to defend without any penalties and forced a Burnaby handling error that drew an end to the epic battle. 

Hats go off to both teams who played with passion and fire until the final whistle. The Burnaby players are fierce competitors who will certainly prove to be formidable opponents as they compete for the final Premier berth. Congratulations to the young Abby squad who take on the defending Premier champions Oak Bay on Nov 5 in Abbotsford. Thanks to the referees and all supporters who attended the weekend games.

For more information on the game, please visit the Abbotsford News Article.

Other weekend results:

Abby Div 1 Men (0) vs Burnaby (44)
Abby Div 3 Men (14) vs Burnaby (28)
Abby Div 2 Women (62) vs Ridge Meadows (12)
Abby U-19 Men (39) vs Surrey (7)
Abby U-17 Boys (10) vs Surrey (11)
Abby U-16 Boys (0) vs Bayside (24)

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