The Oak Bay Barbarians retained the Howard Russell Cup as Lower Island high school boys AAA rugby champions with a 39-17 win over the Mount Douglas Rams at Oak Bay High on Thursday.
Grade 12 student Conor McDiarmid led the Barbs with a hat trick of tries. Captain Evan Cambridge scored the second try of the day as the Barbs used a well rounded attack to stymie the talented but new-to-rugby Rams.
“The Rams are a team of great athletes, you can see that, and we had to use our skill and structure to win,” Cambridge said.
Cambridge, a graduating senior and B.C. Youth 7s team member, will join the UVic Vikes rugby program next year. Vikes head coach Doug Tate was at the game watching his son, Barbs’ fly half Morgan Tate.
On the opposite side of the field, Rams’ fullback Mason Swift gave the Barbs all kinds of fits. Swift is headed to play running back for the Guelph Gryphons football squad in the CIS this year and showed his skills are transferable.
“Rugby’s in my blood, I’m half Tongan, but I never played until this year really,” Swift said. “I love it, but I just haven’t played enough.”
Swift lined up at centre most of the season but was moved to fullback for the Howard Russell Cup by coach Matt Staples.
And the decision paid off.
“I think we’d rather face Swift at centre so he has less space to start with,” said Cambridge.
Swift’s runs almost always started from standing, at times on his heels, not that it mattered, as he casually slapped off at least two tacklers per carry.
Early line breaks and a game’s worth of tackle breaks may have sapped Swift’s extraordinary fitness, though he continued to break Barbarians’ tackles at half speed. His fitness proved valuable as he made multiple try-saving tackles, of highlight reel quality, including two during one set of Barbarian phases late in the game, at opposite corners of the field, no less.
The Rams, to their credit, surged in the second half using its massive forward pack to barge ahead with a hard fought succession of phases.
But the inevitability of a knock-on was always there and the Barbarians could smell it. The Barbs were caught offside due to their eagerness to apply pressure at the breakdown, like sharks in search of a turnover.
The win is another notch in the historic rugby program so important to the Oak Bay High culture.
“It means a lot to win this trophy,” Cambridge said. “We hear about what it means to be a Barbarian from the time we’re in Grades 5 and 6. It’s passed down not just from older kids, but from our parents.”
Jags run over GNS
The St. Michaels Blue Jaguars romped to a 56-5 win over the Glenlyon Norfolk Gryphons in the AA Colonel Hodgkins Cup immediately following the Howard Russell on Thursday.
GNS fielded a team full of Grade 10s and 11s and to their credit, scored the try of the day to end the game, said Blue Jags coach Ian Hyde-Lay.
All four above teams qualified for the first round of provincials, which happen Saturday (May 25) at Brentwood College.
The No. 3 seed Blue Jags are missing a handful of key regulars and will likely call up some talented Grade 10s when they face No. 14 seed Ladysmith in AA play.The 11 seed Gryphons will face the McRoberts of Richmond.
In AAA play No. 8 seed Oak Bay and faces No. 9 seed Carson Graham and No. 14 Mount Doug draws No. 3 Earl Marriott.