Richmond rugby players win medals at PRCs

U18 VRU girls team earns bronze with seven city players in line-up and Graham Haigh coaching

Seven Richmond athletes won bronze medals at the Provincial Regional Championships (PRC) at the Burnaby Lake Rugby Club past weekend. 

The Vancouver Rugby Union (VRU) U18 girls knocked off their Thompson-Okanagan Rugby Alliance (TORA) opponents in the bronze medal game 34-12. Winger Tjammie Ko (McMath) was the star of the match tallying four tries in the first half to pace the VRU squad. 

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Fullback Keelin Laing (McRoberts) played up to her usual hard-nosed reputation, making several tackles and punishing defenders with long rollicking forays into TORA territory. 

In pool play, the VRU finished 3-2, losing out on a point differential tie-breaker which left them outside the gold medal game, but the squad's depth was able to avenge a previous loss to the Thompson-Okanagan team on day one of the tournament. 

Scrum half Elsie Gonzalez (McRoberts) was a calming influence throughout the weekend, directing traffic and scoring a pivotal try in pool play that allowed for the VRU to defeat the Fraser Valley for the first time in recent memory. 

Gonzalez played nearly the entire tournament - but it was impact sub Kaylee Wolf (Richmond High) entering into the front row during the second half of several games which wore opposing teams down with her relentless crashing runs. 

Nini Weng (McRoberts) was her usual dependable self, tackling opposing players behind the gain line and stealing balls at rucks and mauls. Kate Fedoruk (McMath) whose minutes were limited during the tournament because of injury concerns, was a force in the bronze medal game, playing open-side flanker and executing several crunching tackles. 

Winger Jessica Wang (McRoberts) used her impressive speed and balance to withstand several high (and illegal) tackles which kept her from breaking through the defensive line on more than one occasion, and was unlucky not to score several times throughout the tournament. 

Coach Graham Haigh praised the efforts of all seven girls and noted that the future looks bright for rugby not only in the city, but in the region. 

Only two of the seven medalists graduated this June.

Gonzalez will be continuing her rugby career next year at the University of Ottawa, while Wang will be suiting up for Simon Fraser University. Weng, Fedoruk, Ko, Wolf and Laing will be returning for their final year of junior rugby in the Fall and will factor into a talented VRU team hunting for a gold medal in 2019.

In other divisions: Richmond RFC junior coach Al Smith guided the Vancouver South U16 boys, who featured Vinay Mudaliar (McNair) and Mark Pivko (McRoberts) and was assisted by current Richmond RFC player Lance Davison. The U16 Vancouver Rugby Union girls team featured team captain Kyra Bates (McRoberts) and prop Brynn Waismann (McMath) and the U14 Vancouver Rugby Union girls team that finished fourth at the tournament included speedster Viki Wideski (McMath) and tactical kicker Rayya Kumar (McRoberts). 

Former Hugh McRoberts standout Kapi Vaitiki was head coach of the Lower Vancouver Island U-16 boys, while former Richmond RFC women's player Ged Griffiths coached the Vancouver South U-18 girls team which featured Alex Strandt (McMath) at lock.

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