Souris faces St. Paul’s in final
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The Souris Sabres and the St. Paul’s Crusaders will meet in this afternoon’s boys rugby championship at John Reilly Field to crown the first provincial champion since 2019.
The Sabres beat the Crocus Plainsmen 24-7 in the first semifinal on a rainy Friday evening, while the Crusaders cruised to a 34-12 victory over the Dauphin Clippers in the late game. The bronze medal matchup between Crocus and Dauphin takes place today at noon, with the gold medal game starting at 1:30 p.m.
The opening game on Friday was the third meeting of the season between Souris and Crocus, and Sabres coach Brian Yon was impressed by his opponent.
“They played great,” Yon said of the short-staffed Plainsmen, who played part of the first half down a man after one player was knocked out the game due to injury and another was temporarily lost to a yellow card. “I told them shaking hands that they’re heavily, heavily improved and I thought that in particular points in the game that they had us under pressure.
“We didn’t help ourselves by making some unforced errors but I thought they handled the ball better in the backfield than I did. We made a lot of mistakes but we found a way to get the win and now we’re in the championship.”
Jared Ross struck for a pair of early tries, with Colin Nay and Stevie Ross also touching the ball down and Shaine Murphy kicking a pair of converts for the Sabres. Hayden O’Hara responded with a try and a convert for the Plainsmen.
Souris led 12-0 at the half, and when Nay scored to give his team a 17-0 lead early in the second half, they seemed to have all the momentum. But O’Hara’s quick response to make the game 17-7 seemed to inspire his teammates, and Crocus actually touched the ball down twice in rapid succession on a deep drive soon after.
Unfortunately for the Plainsmen, both times it came slightly after a whistle and Souris was eventually able to kick the ball to safety. Crocus never seriously threatened again.
While Yon was certainly happy to advance, he’s mindful of the major hurdle that remains in the Crusaders.
“St. Paul’s is always the rugby juggernaut when it comes to high school rugby,” Yon said. “They have athletes. They go to school for the education but they also go there for the athletics so they’re always big, they’re fit.
“There is no question that it’s typically a David and Goliath matchup whenever the Westman team meets them in the final. We’re going to have to be very good (today) on both sides of the ball and we’ll see how it plays out.”
Tristan Garland led St. Paul’s with a pair of tries and a convert, with singles coming from Jack Derrett, Dario Macchia, Nathan Macdonell and Eamon Wallace. Eric Fontaine added a convert.
William Miner and Matthew Zurba responded for Dauphin, with Marko Hernandez adding a convert.
If Souris prevails, it will be a Westman sweep this year
No Winnipeg schools entered the girls provincials, so the Rivers Rams face the Clippers in a rematch of the Westman High School Rugby final, which the Rams won 20-7. That game will be held on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
The Sabres, who won their first boys title since 2014 last weekend with a 15-12 victory in Dauphin, have a chance to make history today. It was a message Yon delivered to his players after the game.
“We told our kids that there are a lot of kids who go through four years of high school athletics and they never reach a final, let alone get an opportunity to win one,” Yon said. “These boys have to relish that. We haven’t been to a provincial final in quite some time and we’ve only won one in our program’s history, back in 2013.
“These boys have a huge opportunity.”
» Twitter: @PerryBergson