Jaxon Baker leaves an Esquimalt tackler in her dust during the teams’ match at the Island girls rugby sevens championship hosted by Brentwood last week. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Growth of rugby sevens shows at Island championship

Shawnigan and Cowichan advance to provincials this weekend

The explosive growth of rugby sevens on Vancouver Island was visible last week as Brentwood College School played host to the Island girls sevens championship.

“The quality of sevens is great across the Island,” Brentwood coach Marius Felix gushed. “From the top teams down to 11 and 12, every school makes an effort to play sevens, as opposed to having XV players who play sevens. It’s a huge improvement from even four or five years ago.”

The surge in sevens has enabled some schools to participate in the sport when XV might have been impossible. Belmont, who beat Shawnigan Lake School in Saturday’s Island final, has been unable to sustain an XV side, and St. Michaels University School is also without a girls XV team. Esquimalt, which had two teams at the Island sevens, does have a developing XV side, and hopes to enter league play next year. Another school without an XV side, Queen Margaret’s School, was scheduled to play in the Island sevens, but had to withdraw due to injuries, opening up the spot for Esquimalt’s B team.

The top four teams from the Island tournament — Belmont, Shawnigan, Cowichan Secondary and Esquimalt’s A team — earned berths in the provincial tournament, which Brentwood will also host this Friday and Saturday. Brentwood, who tied for 11th place at Islands, missed the cut for provincials, but served notice that they will contend in the near future.

“We have a very young team, an emerging team,” Felix said. “Sevens is based on speed and athleticism, and most of our top players are in Grade 10. In terms of effort and getting better, we were delighted with our group.”

Brentwood will have an entry in the eight-team junior tournament that will parallel the provincial championships, “essentially the same team” that played at Islands, according to Felix.

“Were pretty excited about that,” the coach said. “It’s a better fit for us this year. Next year the same group of kids will be more competitive. and the year after, much more competitive.”

The Cowichan Secondary Thunderbirds moved up one placing from their finish at the Island tournament a year ago, beating Esquimalt 29-7 in the third-place game. The T-Birds went 3-0 in pool play on Friday afternoon, beating Esquimalt B, Edward Milne and Esquimalt A in a nail-biter. They thumped SMUS 30-0 in the quarter-finals on Saturday morning to achieve their first goal of qualifying for the provincial tournament.

Cowichan’s only loss of the Island tournament came in the semis against the eventual champions from Belmont as junior player Victoria Van Niekerk scored the T-Birds’ lone try.

Belmont beat Shawnigan 21-7 in the final, which Felix called “a crackerjack of a game. Shawnigan was missing one of their stronger players, which helped create an opportunity for Belmont, which has taken advantage of its proximity to Rugby Canada’s training centre in Langford to create a sevens academy.

“They have some very athletic kids, a ton of team speed,” Felix said.

The provincial championships and the junior tournament will both be played at Brentwood this Friday and Saturday. Games run from 9 a.m. to 5:30 on Friday and begin again at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Some of Canada’s top up-and-coming athletes will be in action.

“I can say with confidence that there will be future Olympians on the field at Brentwood,” Felix said.

The gold- and bronze-medal matches and the junior final will be played at Westhills Stadium in Langford as part of the HSBC Canada Women’s Sevens tournament.

“It’s such a great opportunity for them,” Felix said. “There’s a great underpinning of support that Rugby Canada and BC Rugby have created for young women.”

Just Posted

Vancouver Island woman wins $100,000 weight-loss challenge

Campbell River’s Kendrah Paul lost 140 pounds

Bamfield residents, visitors pressure province as anniversary of fatal crash approaches

Letter-writing campaign makes ‘heartfelt, emotional pleas’ to improve road conditions

Vancouver Island MLA says too much on shoulders of RCMP

Reformed Police Act could look at spreading responsibility to other responders

In a pandemic, Island tinkerer grabs on to whatever floats your boat

Pieter Stegeman built rescue raft ‘Air-Float-One’ out of recycled materials to keep himself busy

Flyers’ Duncan-born goalie coach checks in from the NHL bubble in Toronto

Kim Dillabaugh speaks about hockey restart as he chases the Stanley Cup isolated from family

STANDING TALL: Forestry workers meet the challenges, remain hopeful

A look at the forest sector in B.C. – and those hoping for the best – amid mill curtailments

Airforce search and rescue helicopter drops in at Cameron Lake for training

Distinctive yellow CH-149 Cormorant turns heads after using Island lake for impromptu hoist

Vancouver Island business not happy about public porta-potty installed next door

Ladysmith Health Food Stores launches petition against the temporary washroom

B.C. man who nearly died from COVID-19 reflects on one-month battle

Robert Billyard was in an induced coma to ensure his body would not fight the ventilator to breathe

Greater Victoria hardly making a dent in greenhouse gas emissions target

One-per-cent drop from 2007 to 2018 a far cry from the 33-per-cent goal for 2020

Parkinson SuperWalk goes virtual throughout B.C. due to COVID-19

People encouraged to walk around their neighbourhood, along community trails, through parks, forests

Missed rent payments ‘cause of COVID-19? You have until July 2021 to pay up

Each monthly instalment must be paid on the same date the rent is due.

U.S.-Canada pandemic border restrictions extended into September

‘We will continue to keep our communities safe,’ says Public Safety Minister Bill Blair

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

Most Read