If it is indeed an end of an era for high school boys rugby in Richmond, the McMath Wildcats made sure it finished on a winning note.
The Wildcats closed out their season with come-from-behind victory over Cowichan on Saturday in Abbotsford to earn fifth place at the B.C. “AAA” Tier Two Championships.
B.C. School Sports’ recent approval of Rugby Sevens for the 2019-20 school year will very likely pave the way for the Wildcats to focus solely on that version of the sport moving forward. It could also breathe new life into other city schools that now suddenly only need a dozen student athletes to field a team instead of 25 for the 15s version.
“We came into this tournament with only 21 players available for three tough games in four days then we lost our captain (senior Ben Spare) to injury,” explained McMath head coach Mike Charlton.
“We have a very young team with a lot of speed. That’s why perhaps it’s good to get a commitment from 14 or 15 of them and just focus on sevens. We also have no size next year so perhaps we showcase and play to our strength and see how it goes (in sevens).”
The Wildcats’ goal coming into this campaign was to advance to the B.C. tier two tournament that is designed for the ninth through 16 ranked AAA teams in the province.
McMath was seeded fifth in the bracket and lost an 18-13 quarter-final overtime heartbreaker to Nanaimo after opening up a 10-0 lead.
The boys bounced back with their most complete game of the season in a 54-5 rout of Belmont — before completing the Vancouver Island trifecta with a win against Cowichan, thanks to a terrific second half.
“I’m very proud of the boys,” added Charlton. “The Belmont game was best rugby we played all year. Great open style rugby and we used the ball well. Today was a great competition between two equal teams and it finished the way it should with a couple of big efforts in the second half to push through for the victory.
“Our goal at the beginning of the season was to make the tournament. To do that is a huge success for such a raw and young team.”
Spare was named to the Commissioner’s XV Team.