By: Howard Tsumura, The Province
The giants of B.C. girls triple-A high school rugby hope they have started a new tradition at their North Vancouver school.
Back in 2012, when the Carson Graham Eagles beat Courtenay’s G.P. Vanier Towhees in the provincial championship final, you could be excused for wondering just what the breadth of their dynasty would eventually become.
Seven straight titles and eight over a span of nine years made them the most dominant program in all of B.C. high school sports.
But after going without a crowning moment the next three seasons, the 2016 Eagles were a team without the pedigree of provincial title to lean as a crunch-time crutch.
Nonetheless, when scrum half Heather Ranger worked a two-on-one in the late going Saturday in Kamloops, eventually spinning the ball off to Devan Baker, that old championship tradition was on the verge of returning.
Baker’s try pulled the Eagles ahead of the Towhees 11-10 with about three minutes remaining, and Carson Graham made the score stand in a victory over a team which was threatening to become its own provincial dynasty.
“I knew that the girls in this program wanted to bounce back after losing so handily in the final to Vanier last season,” said Eagles’ co-coach Brad Baker, referencing the fact that the Towhees trounced Carson Graham 39-14 on their home field in the B.C. fina last season, the second straight win for the Courtenay crew. “We wanted to prove that our program is still strong.”
Carson Graham led 3-0 at the half on a Leina Dueck penalty kick, but Taya Gagnon’s try pulled Vanier ahead 5-3 early in the second half. After Dueck booted another penalty, the Eagles had regained the lead at 6-5, but Kristianna Bouwers found touch for the Towhees, making the score 10-6 and setting the stage for Baker’s winning try.
“These teams are so evenly matched,” said Brad Baker. “They had a lot of speed outside and they were very physical, so part of our game plan was to come up really hard on them, and then not give them the opportunities to run into space.”
Added Vanier head coach Dwayne Mills: “They were hard to get the ball away from, and we struggled containing them on defence.”
Saturday’s title clash was the third between the Eagles and the Towhees in the past five seasons. Vanier was making its third straight trip in the final, beginning with 2014’s 15-10 win over Elgin Park of Surrey.
*In the B.C. double-A final, also at Kamloops, Shawnigan Lake defeated Abbotsford 34-7 as part of perhaps the most comprehensive season of rugby in B.C. high school history.
On the same weekend that the Shawnigan girls were getting a pair of tries apiece from Enyo Edeh and Maggie Banks, Shawnigan’s senior and junior boys each won provincial titles. Over the same season, Shawnigan’s senior boys and girls sides each won CAIS titles as Canadian independent high school champs.
The most special title may well have been the girls’ triumph in Kamloops.
“It’s out third (girls B.C.) title, but it’s been almost 20 years since our last,” said Shawnigan co-coach Mark Hall after the victory, referencing the second of back-to-back crowns in 1997. “The team that we have is very balanced so we were able to play an expansive game. That was the edge we had over the teams that we played.”
Linnea Hokanson and Samantha Johnston scored the team’s other tries.
For the article on The Province website click HERE.