London’s Colfe’s School assistant rugby coach Andrew Foster surveyed the Ottoman Drive rugby pitch from the sideline Tuesday as 26 of his players took on high school rugby players from the lakecity.
“This is playing rugby in Canada,” Foster quipped. “We’ve been to Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Seattle. Williams Lake is always at the top of the list of places to go play rugby.”
The team is currently on a two-week rugby tour of Canada playing matches in several cities across B.C. and Alberta.
Foster was in Williams Lake 15 years ago as a player and billeted at then lakecity rugby coach Mike Levitt’s house.
“The boys have had a fantastic time in Canada and Williams Lake was a real highlight as it was for (head coach) Alan Bateson and I when we came as schoolboys with Bradford Grammar 15 years ago.”
He described the Ottoman Drive rugby fields — the home of the Williams Lake Rustlers — as one of the most unique rugby settings in the world.
“The warmth and welcome we received was superb and the Ottoman Drive ground must be one of world rugby’s most evocative settings,” he said.
Prior to arriving in Williams Lake the team from Colfe’s School had been to Calgary, Okotoks and Banff. Next they’ll travel to Vancouver, Victoria and Whistler.
“The boys are enjoying the trip of a lifetime and we are so grateful to all our hosts for making that possible,” Foster said.
The match itself was a one-sided affair as the more experienced Colfe’s players defeated Williams Lake 70-5.
Williams Lake rugby coach Todd Pritchard said his players tackled well and matched Colfe’s School physically, however, thought the team’s defensive structure broke down in the second half.
“The first half of the game was as close as we’ve been to a touring side in the last 10 years,” Pritchard said. “Colfe’s School has an excellent team and dominated ball possession.”
The highlight of the game was Williams Lake’s lone try scored by Tyrone Hunlin, assisted by Jesse Dormuth and AJ French.
“Jesse and Orin Watkinson were standouts in the backs and Rylee Frederiks and Tyrone both played very well in the forwards,” Pritchard said.
Colfe’s School wing and try scorer Dylan Griffith-Payne echoed Pritchard, noting it was an intense match.
“(They) played a really physical game but it was in good spirits pretty much throughout,” Griffith-Payne said. “Canadian people are incredibly friendly, but it doesn’t stop them hitting you hard on the rugby field.”
The team’s players billeted with Williams Lake families for their three-day stay and took part in various activities in the region.
“A thank you to all the families that billeted English players and a special thanks to Kal Tire for donating inner tubes for use,” Pritchard said.
Foster, meanwhile, hopes one day Williams Lake will consider bringing a team to England.
“We hope we will be able to reciprocate by hosting our new Canadian friends back in the U.K. at some point in the not-too-distant future.”