SMUS player Marco Fanati tries to elude Wolverine Dante Morandin in April 7 rugby action at EMCS.

Rugby flies under sunny Sooke skies

Rugby program kicked off in Sooke

A celebration of spring-like weather and the debut of a new athletic program took place last Thursday at Edward Milne Community School.

It was the first game for the school’s new rugby program and a traditional powerhouse provided the opposition for the freshly-formed Wolverines.

St. Michaels University School brought a squad out west from its Richmond Road campus in Victoria for the two games played – a 15-a-side senior match.

The older guys played first and a crowd of about 70 obviously enjoyed the spectacle.

It’s a very viewer-friendly sport and the local fans were quickly made aware that the Wolverines are a serious, talented and well-prepared outfit.

A rigorous training program has been underway for the past month or so and an impressive level of cohesion appears to be in place with the EMCS group.

Additional inspiration was injected into their collective psyche on a cold and rainy Monday last week when high-end national rugby 7s players Phil Mack and Robin McDowell led an instructional and motivational session in the school gym.

The Wolverines did not take long in asserting themselves in the Thursday game, taking only about 15 minutes to find the endzone and bust a scoreless tie. 

First year player Tyler Oleksiew broke the ice, romping for about 35 yards with a herd of SMU players in hot pursuit.

“It’s amazing,” Tyler said later of the sport, the team, and the sunny afternoon for the opening effort against a most worthy SMUS squad. 

“It was a great experience, the whole team was pumped.” 

Tyler recounted his scoring strike.

“I broke through and it just felt amazing because it was open field and I just booked it. When I first touched it down it was, like, ecstasy.”

“The EMCS Wolverines came out strong in their first ever Junior Varsity Rugby game,” reported coach Matt Mortenson after the fact, “holding their opponents until the bitter end, when the EMCS lead (21-19) was decimated by two quick SMUS scores in the dying minutes of the game. EMCS was unable to answer. 

“This loss is a reflection of our team’s lack of depth, not a lack of skill or teamwork.”  

Mortenson says what the team really needs is a few more players to round out the roster and give everyone a chance to catch their breath during the game, he pointed out that the visitors had about 10 more players available. 

The Sooke coach was pleased with the overall effort “especially considering that only two of the players had ever played in a rugby match before.”   

Mark Bryant, editor for BC Rugby News, selected Tyler Oleskiew as the man of the match and awarded him a spot at the prestigious Shawnigan Lake Rugby Camp which will run July 17-22. The two runner-up players, Conner Grey and Nick Pfeifer, also had impressive runs and each contributing a score for the Wolverines. Eric Albert, playing as fullback converted all of the EMCS tries. 

“Harley Ring showed off his talents as eighth man carrying multiple SMUS players on his back as he barreled down the field time after time,” Mortenson related. 

“Morgan D’Ganigian was solid as fly half and was a standout according to coach J.P. Lussier.

“Inside centre Zack Bryan made several unselfish passes to his outside centre Nick Pfeifer, setting up one of the tries. Forwards James Lazar, Mathew Howlett, Riley Hannam, Josh Snow, Tyson Bosma, Conner Thomas and Samuel Southwood, all new to the game, were outstanding. Wingers Troy Smith, Sean McKenzie and Mackenzie Mortenson showed they could run with the ball and threaten on the outside.” 

Mortenson said that two Journey M.S. grade 8 students – Dante Morandin and Norris Wass-Little – were invited to play and both excelled. 

“Dante, played blindside flanker and was a real leader, making several tackles as well as driving the ball into the SMU defensive pack.  Meanwhile, Norris contributed in the front row, playing as a prop,” the coach concluded.

St. Michael’s coach Ander Monro was naturally pleased with the win, and complimentary of his hosts.

“We’ve got to hand it to them, they controlled the ball really well. They were very good at what they did, a physical bunch of guys and they ran hard. It was a brilliant performance.

“We made a lot of mistakes and just managed to hold a couple of crucial passes toward the end and fortunately get a couple of scores,” Monro continued, “because it was a tight, hard-fought game.”

How does Monro feel about a new team on the circuit… happy to welcome EMCS?

“The more the better. The competition’s a great thing. It’s just brilliant to see the sport growing, particularly at this level, but at any level.”

EMCS was due to host Oak Bay on Monday, no result prior to deadline. Check www.sookenewsmirror.com. 

 

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