Nineteen teams from throughout the province converged at the Ottoman Drive rugby fields during the weekend for the annual Williams Lake Stampede Rugby Tournament.
Hosted by the Williams Lake Rustlers Rugby Football Club, the tournament was split up into two divisions: a social and a competitive divisions.
The Rustlers, competing in the social division, finished second in what head coach Braden McCallum described as an extremely positive weekend after a 24-17 defeat to Capilano in the championship.
“They brought a very strong team from the Lower Mainland,” McCallum said. “We decided right from the beginning of the tournament we were going to play in true social fashion so everyone was going to get equal playing time. We were going to get as many of our new, inexperienced guys in to get as much playing time as possible, and even though we were in the final we still stayed true to that model. We did incredibly well against a team like Capilano, and it was very encouraging for the future of the Rustlers.”
The Rustlers were coming off a social championship win in 2017, and stormed out of the gates at the tournament to a 24-10 win over Langley.
In its second game the Rustlers fell 17-10 to the Dragons — a team made up of players from Prince George and Northern B.C., before upending Langley handily in the semifinal to reach the championship.
McCallum also gave credit to a contingent from the Kamloops Raiders Rugby Club who loaned several players to the Rustlers during the weekend.
“We were a bit thin compared to Stampedes in the past and it was just due to a change within the Rustlers to a much younger team that’s coming in,” McCallum said. “Some of our veterans were away for work, or have stepped back from playing a little to help with the running of the club.
“We only have maybe five or six guys that are over 30. All the rest are under 30 and our guys played excellently. Our first and second year players are very encouraging to watch and going forward we can develop these young players and maybe come out and win the social side again next year like we did last year.”
On the women’s side it was Burnaby defeating Abbotsford in the championship to win the prestigious buckle by a try.
And in the competitive division, longtime tournament attendees Nanaimo downed Bayside – a new team playing at this year’s tournament — to win the Stampede Rugby buckle.