The Williams Lake Jr. Rustlers under-19 girls club rugby team capped off its inaugural season by winning gold during the Thanksgiving weekend at the Kamloops Sevens.
The under-19 side was joined at the tournament by teammates in the under-16 division where head coach Natasha Johnson said she was completely blown away by both teams’ efforts, determination and teamwork throughout the weekend.
Also joining the girls teams were fellow Williams Lake boys teams in the under-17 and under-15 divisions at the Kamloops Sevens.
The two girls Jr. Rustlers teams, meanwhile, took to the Tournament Capital for the club rugby season ender, hosted by BC Rugby, where 75 teams spread across multiple age divisions in boys and girls rugby hit the pitch at nine fields on McCarthur Island.
“It was an insane tournament,” Johnson said. “One of the best tournament I’ve ever been to put on by BC Rugby.”
For the girls under 19 team, it was just about as perfect a tournament as Johnson could have hoped for.
The team opened its tournament with a 5-0 win over Calgary, then downed United 24-5 and Burnaby, 38-7 on day one. Day two saw the Jr. Rustlers defeat the Castaway Wanderers 14-5 in the semifinal to reach the championship. In the championship, the Jr. Rustlers played their hearts out, Johnson said, in a 24-14 tournament win over Capilano.
“The first game I was very, very worried it was so close,” Johnson said of the 5-0 win over Calgary. “The next two games the girls got it in their heads what they needed to do and worked together and were just on fire against United. We were scoring on the sidelines almost every time.”
Jade Meldrum capitalized on six of her seven conversions against United to help boost the Jr. Rustlers in victory.
“They just shined all the way through,” Johnson said. “We were supposed to be the underdogs and we won it all, so a big shoutout to those girls for all their hard work. They were just great, and all the girls played well as a team. We had nine girls on our U19 roster and seven of those nine scored tries on the weekend.”
In the under-16 division, the girls Jr. Rustlers amassed a three-win, two-loss record in their division.
“I had moved up two of the under-16 girls to play with the under-19 team for the weekend so I was a little worried to see how they’d do,” Johnson said.
“The leadership in Ivy Watson was the highlight of my weekend. She was so calm out on the field. I put her up at a new position in scrum half and she controlled the field like a rock star.”
One thing that stood out to Johnson about the girls’ commitment and dedication to rugby happened after the tournament.
“It was freezing cold and after the under-16s final game against Cowichan the girls were cold and shivering,” she said. “One of the coaches came over and asked if we wanted to play another game and I thought the girls would say no way, but they were so excited to play another game.”
The Jr. Rustler’s season spanned over eight weeks where the team travelled to tournaments in Prince George and Kamloops. They also hosted a tournament in Williams Lake last month.
“It was a very successful first season,” Johnson said. “I’ve had a lot of positive feedback about how the program was run and they really enjoy it and enjoyed being together as a team. Also playing at a higher level — they were nervous at first but they had nothing to worry about.”
Johnson said the team is also extremely thankful for all the community and parent support it received.
“I couldn’t have done it without them,” she said. “We’ll do it again next year, for sure. We’ll be back running as Jr. Rustlers in the fall.”
Williams Lake Under-17 Boys
On the under-17 boys side, Williams Lake coach Todd Pritchard said the team had a fun weekend and greatly improved.
Travelling with a team of all Grade 10s and facing players mostly in Grade 11, the team was outstanding, Pritchard said.
The boys pulled off a 15-10 win against the Kootenay reps with tries from Sione Fine, Colby Bennison and Alex Crook, before losing its next game to United Club from Coquitlam 34-12.
“The game was a little closer as the score indicated as we let in a couple of soft tries,” Pritchard said.
Fine and Bennison against scored for Williams Lake, while Fine also added a conversion.
The team was then soundly defeated by the Calgary Mavericks rep team, finishing ninth Saturday after pool play.
The team took on Prince Rupert in its first game Sunday and won 19-5 in what Pritchard said was a tough match.
“We started to gel and play with a little more discipline in this game,” Pritchard said.
Tries were scored by Isaac Shoults, Tim Pitt and Fine, with Pitt added two conversions.
“The boys played their most complete game of the weekend against St. Albert,” Pritchard said. “We had 80 per cent possession of the ball, moved the ball before contact and scored out tries through great team play. We were also patient in defense and turned the ball over whenever we lost it.”
Try scorers included Shoults, Fine and Pitt, with two. Pitt also converted two to make the final score 24-0, placing them ninth out of 12 teams and winning three out of five games.
Four under-15 boys, meanwhile, joined the Prince Rupert squad to play in the tournament.
“The combined team ended up with two wins and four losses, and finished fifth out of six teams,” Pritchard said, noting Philip Brown had an outstanding weekend both defensively and offensively.