The defending champion Terrace Northmen dispatched the Vernon Jackals 34-14 in the Saratoga Cup provincial men’s rugby final Sunday at McNicoll Park Oval.
The Saratoga Cup is contested by the best independent clubs who play in Northern B.C., Okanagan and the Interior.
The Northmen showed why they took home the trophy, and with strong backline play, blew past the Jackals who couldn’t muster much in the way of defence.
Coach Grant Kissling, a Kiwi immigrant, made some personnel changes in the Vernon backline to hopefully plug some holes exploited in the last meeting, a Northmen win on Saturday. Kissling’s gamble seemed to pay off early as Vernon had much of the possession and all the momentum in the early going only to be turned away at the goal line time after time and went into the half down by just a try.
The Northmen eventually wore the Jackals down and opened up some running lanes and took the back-to-back championship.
Said Kissling: “We played better today, we had our chances to take control of things and that’s all you can really hope for. We just need to capitalize next time.”
The Jackals upended Elk Valley, who have won Saratoga twice in recent history, 24-10 Saturday afternoon to reach the final.
The Jackals came out with a sense of urgency and, pushed an aggressive forward play led by vets Don Deane and captain Adam Morad, controlled the ball and were marched down the field repeatedly.
For the first time the annual tournament also consisted of a women’s sevens division which included Vernon, Merritt, Elk Valley and a Barbarians team made of players from around the province. Day one was a round-robin style.
The Vernon Lady Jackals started things off against a Merritt team hungry for their first rugby action of the season. The slow starting Lady Jackals got down quickly and could not recover, dropping the first game of the day 27-5.
The day didn’t exactly get easier for the women as both the Barbarians and the Elk Valley teams were able to down the Jackals and put them 0-3.
Acting coach Laura Hopkins did some pre-game tinkering Sunday and changed up the strategy and right away things on the field seemed to click, despite a 22-15 loss to Elk Valley.
Winger Sydney Hofer moved inside and anchored things on numerous defensive stands in the back and forth game.
“These girls came so far and never had an ounce of quit in them; I couldn’t be prouder,” said Hopkins, of the womens effort all season long.
Penticton’s Lenaic Madevon, who played for the Pen High Lakers senior girls rugby team, suited up for Merritt and Vernon. Madevon said it was different playing with women.
“They are rougher and faster and stronger. That was really fun,” said Madevon, who helped the Thompson Okanagan Rugby Alliance win gold at B.C. Rugby regional provincials this summer.
Madevon felt a bit scared about playing, but once the whistle blew, she switched her focus to playing how she can. It was challenging playing with teammates she didn’t know, but said the plays went well.
“We did really good. I think I played good,” she said.
Written with files from Emanuel Sequeira, Penticton Western News.