After nine months of hard work and over 50 total games, the Abbotsford Rugby Club has 3 of it's men's teams in the BC Finals on May 11. This opportunity is a first for the club and represents a monumental day in club history. The Division 1 men take on the Rowers, while Division 2 plays Surrey and Division 3 plays Capilano B. Please read on for articles by the Abbotsford News and BC Rugby.
VANCOUVER, BC - A full slate of provincial rugby championships will be headlined by the Okanagan Spring Brewery League One provincial final at Klahanie Park on Saturday, as defending champs Vancouver Rowing Club (11-5) will look to fend off Abbotsford RFC (11-4-1) for the tier two men's title.
Abbotsford will also be vying for provincial titles in the Okanagan League Two Final against Surrey Beavers Athletic Association and will also challenge hosts Capilano RFC in the Third Division Tier B Final. The event kicks off at 11:00am with the Brit Lions of Delta scrumming down against Capilano in the Third Division Tier A Final. (full event schedule provided below).
In the main event at 4:00pm, Abbotsford will be looking to build on a gutsy 19-15 semifinal win over Velox RFC last weekend. The young squad is laden with talent that includes Fraser Valley reps Pat Shields and Chris Chalmers, BC U23 rep Lucas de Beer and former Canada-capped veteran Ryan McWhinney. Also included in the roster is McKechnie Cup-winning captain and Canadian national team prospect Aaron Flagg.
"I'm pretty sure this is the first time in our history that we have three teams in the provincial finals so there is a lot of excitement around the club right now," said Abbotsford head coach Jason Young. "We have a lot of young guys with plenty of depth and they need experience in these types of [playoff] games."
Abbotsford have won four straight matches and will have plenty of confidence having previously beaten Rowers on both occasions this season on Nov 3rd (29-3 Win) and March 23rd (28-5 Win).
"We know the league season is completely different from the playoffs. [Rowers] will be fired up and it will be determined on how the players manage their nerves and intensity on the day," Young added.
For the Rowers, the last year has been about rebuilding and dealing with injuries that have seen them rely on the club's depth.
"It was important for us coming off the championship win last year to not have that hangover slump," said Rowers head coach Jeremy Sabell. "We also lost a number of our experienced players at the end of the season. That allowed for a lot of our younger players to gain experience at this level and work their way into the top side."
Of last year's championship roster, Sabell says only five of the starting XV will be in this week's lineup.
"We have a very young back line anchored by one guy with lots of experience in Karl Mudzamba," Sabell added. "Henry Recinos has stepped up and done an awesome job and we seem to be peaking at the right time."
The Rowers were convincing 50-10 winners in last week's semifinal against UBC and will hope to carry their momentum into this weekend's matchup.
"Hopefully the weather holds as we will look to play a skill-based expansive game," Sabell added. "We are the headliner match for mainland rugby on Saturday and are really up for it."
Kick off is set for 4:00pm at Klahanie Park.
Saturday is shaping up to be a massive day for theAbbotsford Rugby Football Club.
The local association has put teams in three men's divisions into the provincial finals, which run at Klahanie Park in West Vancouver.
The Div. 3 men get things started at 12:40 p.m., taking on Capilano B in their division's Tier B title game. The League 2 side takes its turn at 2:20 p.m. vs. the Surrey Beavers, followed by the League 1 squad facing the Vancouver Rowing Club at 4 p.m.
"I think it's going to be a great day for Abbotsford – it's going to be a lot of fun," predicted Abby head coach Jason Young.
"You can't ask for much more as a coach than having three teams in the final. I'm excited to be there and enjoy it. To me, the guys are deserving of it. I told them that whether they win or lose, I'm proud of them. You can't ask for anything more."
Putting three teams into provincial finals in the same season is believed to be an unprecedented feat in ARFC history, and regardless of the outcomes on Saturday, the season can already be deemed a success.
But sweeping all three games would be even sweeter, and it wouldn't be outside the realm of possibility.
"In all three divisions, we're the highest seed," Young noted.
The League 1 final is particularly intriguing, as the winner earns the option to move up to the CDI Premier League next season.
Abbotsford spent the 2010-11 and 2011-12 campaigns in the Premier League, but was relegated after finishing 1-13 last season. The club has clearly benefited from moving down a level, and Young said it's unclear at this point whether they'd elect to move back up if they were to beat Vancouver Rowing Club on Saturday.
"It's a tough call, because to play at that level . . . you need a lot more depth," he observed.
"Honestly, I think (moving down) has been the best thing for the club since we're so young – just to rebuild and kind of get confidence and try to rebuild the culture, try to get the fun back into it. Playing in Premier is a tough go. You're playing top sides all the time, and depth-wise, if you've got a few injuries, it's tough to do that."
FINALS AT KLAHANIE PARK, WEST VANCOUVER
General Admission Tickets: $15, $10 for Youth (Under 15 or students with valid ID)
11:00am Division III - Tier A Final
Brit Lions vs Capilano(A) RFC
12:40pm Division III - Tier B Final
Capilano(B) RFC vs Abbotsford RFC
2:20pm Okanagan Spring Brewery Men's League 2 Final
Surrey Beavers Athletic Association vs Abbotsford RFC
4:00pm Okanagan Spring Brewery Men's League 1 Final
Vancouver Rowing Club vs Abbotsford RFC