South Delta Sun Devils saved their best for last to reach the podium for the second straight year at the B.C. Secondary Schools AAA Rugby Championships.
The Sun Devils closed out another outstanding campaign with a dominating 57-12 victory over the Yale Lions on a spectacular Saturday afternoon at Abbotsford’s impressive Exhibition Park.
This was the same opponent that handed South Delta its first loss of the season three weeks earlier — a 42-14 result in the Fraser Valley semi-finals. The defending B.C. champions played that game minus some key players thanks to a rash of injuries, including captains Caleb van Til and Andrew Kraft. In the rematch, the seniors led an electrifying performance that saw South Delta break a tight game wide open with seven unanswered tries.
Kraft led the charge with six of them — showcasing his punishing style and speed.
“I love rugby so much and this is the ending I wanted,” smiled Kraft who will now solely focus on his football career at Simon Fraser University this fall. “We all came back at some point (from injuries) and I feel this is the game we have been practising for all year and that’s what really is cool about it. To have the last game be the one we won, especially in high school. This is pretty special.”
South Delta also got tries from Chase Marshall, Evan Paterson and Ethan Troniak — the latter two being standout Grade 11s that should have the Sun Devils back in provincial contention again next season.
The Devils headed to the eight-team tier one provincial draw as the No. 4 seed after also falling to Mountain in the Valley third place game. They opened play Wednesday with a 29-14 win over No. 5 Kelowna — setting the stage for Thursday’s semi-final match-up with Fraser Valley champion and No. 1 seed Earl Marriott.
For the second straight year, the South Surrey powerhouse had come down from the five-team Premier League to contest for the “AAA” title.
The Sun Devils failed to capitalize on an early chance to open the scoring and the Mariners punched in a pair of tries to take a 12-0 lead into halftime. Paterson put his team within five with a try that he also converted. The Devils got within five metres of the potential go-ahead score but the Mariners turned them back and added an insurance try with under five minutes remaining.
Marriott went on to capture the provincial banner with a 46-19 win over Robert Bateman.
“We lost a couple of key guys on the field and we kind of looked a little unorganized and panicked,” said South Delta coach Spencer Baines. “The weight and gravity of the big game kind of got to us and just the little mistakes added up in a razor tight game. That’s what makes the difference.”
Baines watched his team bounce back in a big way Saturday with superb tackling and terrific ball movement that put their playmakers in position to excel.
“I’m so happy and so proud of them,” he added. “If we play the way we played today and play our game we can beat anybody. We’re a little inconsistent but that comes with experience. We will build on this for next year and I think we will be back here again with another chance.”
The Sun Devils will have some solid talent coming up to the senior ranks as well after winning the Fraser Valley Tier Two Junior title.