For the second year in a row, following what was a 27-year drought, the Williams Lake Hustlers ladies rugby club are the 32nd Annual Stampede Rugby Tournament champions.
The Hustlers dominated in the final game of the tournament Saturday at the Ottoman Drive Rugby Fields, knocking off Burnaby Lake 27-5 to take the championship, avenging a loss to the same club the previous day.
Scoring two tries in the final was first-year player Jasmyn Niquidet, adding to her total of seven tries throughout the tournament. Also adding tries were team captain Claire Lawrence and Krystle Carpenter.
Niquidet, a Grade 11 student at Columneetza secondary, used her speed and aggressive running style to cut through and around the opponents’ defense throughout the tournament.
She was also named the tournament’s most valuable player in the women’s final.
Prior to the final the Hustlers easily knocked off Prince George and Simon Fraser University in their first two games, before losing by three points to Burnaby Lake in their final game Friday.
On the men’s side, the Williams Lake Rustlers found themselves in a tough field of nine clubs, many travelling from the Lower Mainland.
In their first game the Rustlers lost by a try to Vancouver’s Meraloma Rugby Club, before falling by nine points to Capilano in the afternoon Friday.
Saturday, the Rustlers won easily in the consolation final against a combined team of the Prince George Gnats, Prince Rupert and Terrace players.
“The future looks bright for the men’s team,” Lee said. “We had a large number of very skilled young players come up and get their first games with the Rustlers, joining an already young team.”
Most valuable player for the men’s consolation final was Williams Lake’s Chris Mernett.
“Chris played outstanding defense making incredible try-saving tackles in every game he played in,” Lee said.
The men’s final had the Youngbucks of Vancouver taking on the Burnaby Lake Rugby Football Club.
“The Youngbucks were the two-time defending champs but were the underdogs as BLRFC brought 42 guys in an attempt to win the coveted buckles,” Lee said.
“Both teams played great, making it one of the most exciting finals in recent history. The Youngbucks, however, played brilliantly and went on to claim the championship for the third year in a row by a two-point margin.”
The tournament, which began Thursday evening and wrapped up Saturday afternoon, is the largest in western Canada featuring teams from throughout B.C.
In addition, adding to the social atmosphere, the tournament featured live music Thursday night from longtime Williams Lake Rustlers member and former coach Dean Fulton, along with his band Soupbone.