Rugby returns to RAP Saturday as James Bay hosts Newfoundland provincial team

James Bay host Newfoundland Rock, Shawnigan Lake high school host Atlantic U21

James Bay (white) hosted the Oxford Blues (blue) three years ago at MacDonald Park and Ballymena RFC (Ireland) at Bullen Park in 2009. This weekend the Bays host the Newfoundland Rock provincial team as part of JBAA's 125th anniversary.

Rugby season continues this weekend as the James Bay Athletic Association host the touring Newfoundland Rock provincial team at Royal Athletic Park on Saturday.

The match is part of JBAA’s 125th anniversary commemoration.

Kick off for the main feature is 2:30 p.m. though the day is a double-billing with future nationals on display in the earlier game.

At 1 p.m. defending provincial high school champion Shawnigan Lake school take on the Atlantic U21 team.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve seen rugby at RAP,” said Tom Woods, spokesperson for JBAA.

Woods played there in 1986 when visiting sides from Australia, Japan, Ireland toured here for James Bay’s 100th anniversary.

In the years since, however, rugby’s mostly been played elsewhere.

Woods hopes the match marks a return for rugby to the downtown stadium.

“We’d like to have it as a Friday night venue for the (Canadian Direct Insurance) Premier League next season,” Woods said.

“A lot of work has been done for this. The anchors for the goal posts were moved a few metres closer to the grandstand so the spectators will be right on top of the action.

“This way if JBAA plays Castaway-Wanderers at the same time Velox plays UVic, instead of having an overlap of our fan base, people can see both.”

That, and when JBAA and CW play each other there is little room in the respective team’s bleachers to seat the throng of spectators, something RAP can offer.

It also offers use of the city’s marquee outdoor venue, of which, as of this week, workers ended a spring-term project returning the Victoria Seals’ baseball diamond into a grassy continuation of the rest of the field.

Saturday’s match came about through Woods and Rock manager Pat Parfrey. Woods played for Parfrey on Canada’s national team. The Rock are spending five days training at Shawnigan Lake and the Rocks’ top 15 will face a Canada Selects squad there today (May 13). A second Rock 15 will face the Bays on Saturday.

“We’re fortunate cause of the history we get to host clubs like Oxford University (2008) and Ballymena RFC (Ireland, 2009) through our many channels. There’s a resurgence in the touring aspect of rugby.”

Coming home with the Rock is Oak Bay High grad Geoff Warden, who, with fellow JBAA player Tyler Wish, are studying their doctorates at St. John’s Memorial University.

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