The Abbotsford U-19 team had a monumental playoff win this past weekend at Klahanie Park in North Vancouver. The local side came into the mainland semi-final ranked 4th, after narrowly losing several close games during the regular season. The competition has been tight between the top 4 teams in the Tier 1 division as the Abby boys lost narrowly to the Ravens (by 5), Capilano (by 4) and Bayside (by 9). This must have put some coins in the Karma bank though as the U-19 squad travelled to the Capilano pitch to take on the number 1 seed in playoff action.
It was a cold but sunny day, and Abby knew they would be in for a stiff battle. Abbotsford came out of the gates flying. Most of the team had never beaten a Capilano squad before and they were highly motivated to do so on the day and have their season continue on. The Abby team put together a string of phases early on and demonstrated significant improvement throughout the season in their ball retention. Center Spencer Loughlin (Yale) delivered the first score of the game, plunging over the Capilano try line with a strong run. The convert sailed just wide to give Abbotsford the early lead of 5-0.
Capilano answered back with a nice run from their number 9 who caught the Abby blind side flat footed. An offload to streaking support amounted to a converted Capilano try and put the score at 7-5 for the home team. Abbotsford dominated most of the play in the first half, but came away empty handed on several attacks in the Capilano red zone. A nice break by Joey Campbell (Sardis) nearly amounted to a try, and forward attacking play was thwarted several times. On one instance, the Abby captain, JD Paul (Mouat) was sent off with a yellow card for alleged foul play. The Abbotsford team rallied and despite being down a man, kept on the front foot and were rewarded with a penalty in front of the posts. Joey Campbell converted to bring the score to 8-7 for the visitors. Capilano answered back and the half ended with a Cap penalty kick to give them the lead at half of 10-8.
At half time, it was obvious that the Abby boys were excited about the possibility of an upset and believed that they could come away with a win. There was a prize on the line for the biggest hit of the game, and several players were in the running with their defensive play. In the second half, play continued to bounce back and forth between the two evenly matched teams. About 10 minutes in, Abbotsford had a midfield scrum and perfectly executed a three phase attacking play. Juggernaut center Sebastian Gibson (Mouat) had several penetrating runs on the day, in this case breaking the line to set up a blind phase to an awaiting forward pod. Some impressive handling through the forwards released Eli Reeves (Yale) on the outside who broke a couple of tackles and touched down for the unconverted tally, giving the lead back to the Abby squad 13-8.
The Capilano side were not finished. They caused Abbotsford trouble all day on kickoffs, and managed to recover their own restart in the Abbotsford end. The Caps pressured in the Abbotsford zone and were met with stiff defense led by flanker Nick Windt (Yale) and lock Justin Vargas (Bateman). The home team managed to find an opening on the blind side off a scrum and put together a few phases that eventually led to a score to tie the game. Onlookers held their breath as the kicker pushed the convert through the posts to give the Caps a 15-13 lead with about 15 minutes remaining. Abbotsford came roaring back and kept the pressure on. Scrum half Graeme Fugger (Sardis) did a great job keeping the ball moving and the Abby forwards did well to maintain possession. Despite the pressure, Abbotsford had trouble punching the ball across the line. They were eventually rewarded for their efforts with a Capilano penalty just outside the 22, where the coaches were eagerly signalling for points. Joey Campbell slotted the clutch kick to give the Abby boys the one point lead.
With under 5 minutes to go in the game, both sides were fired up and felt the sense of urgency. Abby had the home team pinned in their end with less than a minute to go when the Caps managed to find some space wide. They put several phases together and marched down into the Abbotsford end. With the Abby defensive line looking out of sorts, it appeared that Capilano had an overlap on the outside that could amount to a late score. As the ball moved wide just outside the Abby 22, it was knocked on by a Capilano player and the final whistle sounded. The Abby boys erupted with joy as #4 Abbotsford managed to become the snake in the grass and take an unsuspecting nip at the #1 Capilano side. With the 16-15 win, the Abbotsford team advances to the mainland final where they will play Nov 17 against the Ravens at Jericho beach. The whole Abby team played well and had their best game of the season. Justin Vargas won the award of biggest hitter on the day, while Louis Retief (Sardis) and Joey Campbell won forward and back players of the game. We wish the boys good luck next weekend!
In other playoff action, the Abby U-15 boys take on Capilano in the Mainland Final this coming weekend. Our U-15 team is currently undefeated and have outscored the opposition 213-58. A dozen different players on the team have scored tries on this diverse and talented team.
Our U-18 girls are also in playoff action, and have won all of their games except for a close battle against Bayside. These talented ladies have a number of experienced veterans and look to have a great shot at a repeat provincial title this year.
Our U-17 boys are underdogs going into the Tier 1 provincials, but have been improving significantly as the season has progressed.
We wish all of our youth teams the best of luck as the playoffs progress.