Fifty-three middle school rugby players travelled to Langford to compete in the Langford 7s tournament on Friday. The teams made up of Grade 6, 7, and 8 players from Neill and Dunn Middle School did an outstanding job at what was for many their first rugby tournament.
At the end of the day the Alberni teams walked away as Plate Champions in both the under-135-pound and under-165-pound divisions.
The tournament was played at Rugby Canada’s National Training Centre at Westhill Stadium. It featured teams from some of the top rugby schools in B.C. and was refereed by some of Canada’s national team players.
Alberni entered a team in each of the tournament’s three divisions: Under 135 Pound Boys, an Open Girls Division and Under 165 Pound Boys.
In the Under 135 pound Boys Division the Alberni Team finished with a two win and one loss record to claim the title of Plate Champions.
Their first game of the tournament was a decisive victory versus Rockline. In their second game, the Alberni squad faced a tough team from Abbotford, the Fraser Falcons. Despite a great effort the Alberni team fell short against the more experienced and polished Abbotsford team. The squad’s record and score in pool play landed them in the plate final where they played against John Stubbs Middle School from Sooke. In the plate final the Alberni team used their speed and strength to dominate their opponents. Hunter Buxton from Neill Middle School was selected by coaches as the team all start for the tournament.
The Alberni girls’ team had a mix of girls in Grades 6, 7 and 8 and all but one or two players had no playing experience outside of Port Alberni. Despite playing with a lot of heart their opponents capitalized on their inexperience and handed two tough losses to the Alberni Girls.
The girls played against Sooke’s John Stubbs School and Fraser Middle School in Abbotsford. Grade 8 Kylea Anderson was selected as the team’s all-star for her gritty play and leadership on the rugby pitch.
Alberni’s Under 165 pound Boy’s Team had the opportunity to play in some of the more exciting matches of the tournament finishing with a record of three wins, one loss, and the title of Plate Champions.
In pool play they played against two different teams from Fraser Middle School in Abbotsford. They narrowly lost their first game by one try but then won their second. Their record placed them in the semi-final game against Victoria’s Spencer School. The Alberni boys got off to a slow start in the semi final quickly falling behind by four tries. However, the team battled back to tie the game just before regulation and force it into sudden death overtime where the Alberni team came out victorious. In the final game of the tournament Alberni played a tough squad from Ladysmith Secondary. Once again the Alberni team fell behind early but battled back to win the game by two tries. Hunter Banfield from Neill Middle School was selected as the tournament allstar for the Under 165 Pound Boys.
The tournament success was great to see but SD70’s After School Sports and Arts Coordinator James Messenger was quick to point out the purpose of the activity. “At the middle school level the goal of our rugby program is to expose our athletes to the sport, start building their basic skills and of course make sure we have a lot of fun doing it. To accomplish this we play a modified version of 7 aside and mix up the teams to maximize playing time and get the best match ups possible. This tournament was a great way to have a road trip and gauge our development”
Funding from the provincial government’s After School Sports and Arts Initiative provides financial support to the program. Even more vital to the success of the program is the partnership with the Black Sheep Rugby Club. “Donna Shannon, Kelly Fitzpatrick, and myself help sponsor and coach the program at the school level. We wouldn’t be able to provide the same quality program without the help of the Sheep. Bob Milton, John Symington, Dan Powell, James Reynolds, Anthony Selva, Ben Halychuk, Neal Thurley, Eric Mosley and others all volunteer their time to give back to the sport and the community. It is a great partnership,” concluded Messenger.