Souris seeking provincial boys rugby title

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After winning their first Westman High School Rugby boys’ division title since 2014, the Souris Sabres varsity squad are looking to add another championship to their trophy cabinet.

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After winning their first Westman High School Rugby boys’ division title since 2014, the Souris Sabres varsity squad are looking to add another championship to their trophy cabinet.

The Sabres play the Crocus Plainsmen at John Reilly Field today at 5 p.m., in the first provincial semifinal since 2019.

“I really feel for the guys that didn’t get a chance to play their final year due to COVID, but to be here as graduating player and have a chance to win two titles in one season is truly something special,” Grade 12 vice-captain Colin Nay said following a team practice Wednesday.

Submitted The Souris Sabres hoist the Westman High School Rugby boys championship trophy after their 15-12 win over the Dauphin Clippers last weekend.

“It feels really good to be a part of bringing the Sabres back to the provincials and if we can walk away with the title it would be something that we’d all be proud of, especially as we look back on it in the years to come.”

With no high school games over the last two springs due to the pandemic, Nay and the other senior leaders on the team had to not only get back up to speed when practices began, but also help out the new faces in the lineup.

The Sabres squad – which is mostly made up of Grade 9 and 10 students – also spent the majority of their early training sessions indoors due to inclement weather conditions.

“If you compare where we were from our first practice to where we are now, the difference in our team is night and day,” said Nay, who says the strengths of the team come from their quick ball movement.

“We’ve honed in on our game and we’ve just kept improving on it as the year has gone on. We’ve been moving in the right direction and it feels good to know that we all have each other’s backs out there.”

According to Sabres coach Brian Yon, this year’s squad has also brought back the culture that the program has been known for in the past.

“They are the consummate professionals,” Yon said. “They support one another and they are respectful whether they win or lose.

“This is a group of young men that check their ego at the door. There was a stretch there from 2017 to 2019 where lost that identity of our team and then we had the COVID-19 stoppage that really affected things for everyone. These guys have come in and rolled with the punches … and they are an easy group to root for.”

The Sabres captured their first league title in eight years last Sunday in a back-and-forth 15-12 contest with the host Dauphin Clippers.

Eric Sanderson and Duncan Punay both scored tries for the Sabres, who also got a convert and a penalty kick from Shaine Murphy.

“We really managed the game well,” Nay said. “When there was a key decision to be made, we would make the right one.

“A lot of our guys just played their hearts out up there in Dauphin. We had guys throwing up on the sidelines because they were playing so hard. It was a well-earned win.”

The Clippers will also be in Brandon today as they take on the St. Paul’s Crusaders of Winnipeg at 6:30 p.m.

The winner of that game and the Souris/Crocus Plains contest will vie for the provincial title at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, with the bronze medal matchup taking place at noon.

While the Sabres are familiar with their opponents from the WHSR, St. Paul’s is an unknown entity.

“They are usually the team to beat every season when we come to the provincials,” Yon said. “Everyone’s going to be trying to knock them off and I’m sure they’ll be as good as they normally are.

“With that said, our boys are up to the challenge.”

Usually, two Winnipeg schools compete in provincials, crossing over with the WHSR teams. However, only St. Paul’s felt it was prepared for the weekend after heavier rainfall in the city than Westman drastically cut down on training time.

No girls teams from Winnipeg are competing, so the Rivers Rams go up against the Clippers on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in a rematch of the league final, which the Rams won 20-7.

» lpunkari@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @lpunkari

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