Williams Lake Hustlers player Anna Navrot makes a diving tackle during a match with Abbotsford Sunday at the Stampede Rugby Tournament.

Williams Lake Hustlers player Anna Navrot makes a diving tackle during a match with Abbotsford Sunday at the Stampede Rugby Tournament.

Rustlers, Hustlers face tough tests at Stampede Rugby

The Williams Lake Rustlers and Hustlers men’s and women’s rugby teams fell just short during the weekend.

The Williams Lake Rustlers and Hustlers men’s and women’s rugby teams fell just short during the weekend when they hosted the 36th Annual Stampede Rugby Tournament.

Teams from throughout the province arrived late Friday to the Ottoman Drive rugby fields to help showcase a jam-packed weekend of rugby.

On the men’s side the Rustlers suffered the consequences of this summer’s fire season as several core players were called away to fight fires in the area.

The Rustlers — who entered two teams to begin the tournament — opened their campaign for a Stampede belt buckle Saturday with a loss to Abbotsford.

Game two saw the Rustlers’ second team return the favour, beating Abbotsford, before they went on to drop a tightly-contested match with the eventual tournament champions, the Meralomas, 29-26.

The Rustlers then advanced to the quarterfinal after beating a team combined of Prince George and Terrace players, before getting knocked out of the draw the following morning in the rubber match with Abbotsford.

“It was hot,” said Rustlers head coach Braden McCallum. “We maybe played too many games and spread ourselves too thin [with two teams]. We could’ve gone with just 40 guys on the sidelines on one team but then you cut into playing time.”

He said injuries also played a role in the game against Abbotsford in the quarterfinal.

“We had an excellent first half but I think heat and fatigue came into play in the second half and they exploited our weaknesses through our back line.”

Despite the quarterfinal defeat, McCallum said everyone had a great weekend.

“It was my first Stampede,” he said.

“I had a lot of fun. The guys all had a lot of fun, so it was a success in that regard. It was just too bad we couldn’t win the tournament.”

On the women’s side the Hustlers battled to a fourth place finish in seven-a-side action.

Todd Pritchard, Rustlers member and one of the tournament organizers, said the women’s rugby was at a very high standard.

“The Williams Lake girls played well but were quite young and were knocked out in the semi by Abbotsford, 27-10,” Pritchard said.

Laura Pfleiderer, Erica Pfleiderer and Krystle Carpenter all had strong tournaments for the Hustlers.

“Their tenacity in defence, pace and running skills in offence were exceptional,” Pritchard said.

Fetch, a pickup squad of players from Burnaby and the University of British Columbia, were the class of the women’s tournament and were scarcely tested throughout the weekend. Fetch downed Abbotsford, 22-5, in the final.