D.W. Poppy Redhawks’ Wes Foss makes a move on a Charles Best Blue Devils tackler during junior boys playoff action last week (April 23) at D.W. Poppy Secondary. The Redhawks won 18-17 and have qualified for the Fraser Valleys.

Redhawks rugby on the rise

D.W. Poppy rugby program enjoying a resurgence

Everybody likes a winner.

And that is what is happening on the pitch with the D.W. Poppy Redhawks rugby program.

“It started two or three years ago when we had a really big junior group come through,” explained Kyle Barry, who coaches the Poppy senior team alongside Mike Munsie.

“They started playing and taking to the sport,” Barry explained about the Poppy core, who are now in Grade 12.

Of this year’s 26 players on the senior team — which is ranked sixth in the province among Double-A boys teams heading into the playoffs — 18 are in Grade 12.

“They had a very tough road last year, but they made it to provincials (last year),” Barry said about the senior team which wound up finishing 16th.

“But that raised a lot of eyebrows here from the our juniors and our juniors came out in droves.”

Poppy had about 30 players come out for the junior team this season and has also put together a solid season.

The Redhawks are 1-1 in the playoffs — they beat the Charles Best Blue Devils last week but lost to the Terry Fox Ravens on Monday — and faced the Langley Saints on April 30. Both Langley teams have qualified for the Fraser Valley championships and the game was to determine which team came fifth in the Upper Fraser Valley.

The junior team is coached by Carl Hunter and Bryan Gill.

“For a team that I would say three quarters of them have never played rugby before, to come in and have done this, that is absolutely spectacular,” Barry said.

The senior Redhawks were 4-2 during league play and they are expected to host a Fraser Valley semifinal game on May 8. Their opponent will be either Southridge, Abbotsford or Brookswood, depending on this week’s results.

A victory would guarantee a spot at the provincial championships at the end of the month.

The top three teams from the Fraser Valleys qualify while the fourth-place finisher will play a wildcard game against the fifth-place team from the Lower Mainland to see which team moves on.

And Barry says the team has their eyes on a return trip to provincials — and a finish in the top eight in B.C.

Barry said the returnees from last year got a taste of the provincials “and want it bad.”

“We can definitely adapt our game play to what our opposition brings to the table,” he said.

“We are strong on the forwards, strong on the backs.”

The senior squad is led by standouts Gino Paolella and Nick Vandergoes, who have both played on provincial teams in the past. And in June, Paolella has earned a spot on Canada’s 9’s team while Vandergoes has been named a reserve.

Barry also credited the play of Matthew Theodore, Kyle Sagert and scrum-half Brodie Muench as some of the team’s catalysts.

•••

The R.E. Mountain Eagles senior boys team finished the regular season at 3-3 and are listed as an honourable mention in the Double-A rankings.

The Eagles play the Rick Hansen Hurricanes on May 1 in a playoff game to see which team advances to the Fraser Valley semifinals.

The winner will play the G.W. Graham Grizzlies.

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