TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Tyler Jury of the Brandon Barbarians runs the ball during Division 1 men’s Rugby Manitoba action against the Winnipeg Assassins at John Reilly Field on Saturday afternoon.
The Brandon Barbarians are a win away from a chance to make history.
The Barbarians Division 1 men’s team will battle the Winnipeg Highlanders in the Rugby Manitoba semifinals Sunday at Brandon’s John Reilly Field (4:30 p.m.), while the Barbarians’ Division 1 women’s squad travels to Winnipeg on Sunday to tackle the Saracens in their semifinal. At stake are berths in the provincial finals, which will be played here in Brandon for the first time on Oct. 5.
It’s added motivation for the Barbarians, but head coach and club president Jon Fitzpatrick said they are focused on the task at hand, starting with the semifinals.
"I don’t think there is anything anyone really wants more than this and over the next couple of weeks it’s just a matter of proving ourselves," he said. "The guys have been getting at it pretty good in training and it showed over the last two weeks. … They are all pretty excited about having the possibility to play at home (in the final), but nobody is looking past the semifinal."
The Division 1 men finished the regular season with a 7-3 record by beating the Winnipeg Assassins 40-10 last weekend to secure second place after the Highlanders (7-3) were upset 29-0 by the Wasps to blow their chance at hosting the semifinal. Brandon was 1-1 versus the Highlanders in the regular season, but Fitzpatrick said the Barbarians have plenty of confidence playing on their home field.
"We’ve been playing well and we’ve been kind of building in the last couple of weeks and seeing some really good performances out of our guys and we’ve had a bit of continuity, which we haven’t had all year," Fitzpatrick said.
"We beat (the Highlanders) pretty handily here in Brandon and then they beat us by, I think, 12 in Winnipeg. But we had a pretty sub-par team that day and it was the tail end of a doubleheader weekend, so our boys were pretty beaten up, so we took that game for what it was. But we took a lot out of that game in terms of knowing how they want to play us."
Meanwhile, the Barbarians women’s squad built some confidence for the playoffs by knocking off the first-place Winnipeg Assassins 43-29 last weekend to finish in third place at 2-4. Fitzpatrick likes their chances against the second-place Saracens (4-2) in Sunday’s semifinal.
"I think it’s pretty good, actually. If they come out the way they did against the Assassins there last weekend, they could shut the Saracens down," he said. "The Saracens have one solid striking weapon and she puts a lot of points up for them, so if they can kind of key on her and get the flankers working well and plug up that midfield, they will have a very, very good chance to win that game."
While getting through the semifinals will be a challenge for the Barbarian sides, the opportunity to play on championship day on their home pitch is a dream scenario for the club.
"It would be incredible," Fitzpatrick said. "Going into the season, we had our doubts. Our women’s team was rebuilding and our men’s team, we were a little unsure what we were going to be like this year, but we are playing well. To have the opportunity right here, it’s a great thought, that’s for sure."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 25, 2013