For the first time in school history, the D.W. Poppy Redhawks are the Fraser Valley champions.
The senior boys rugby team accomplished the feat with a hard-fought 8-5 victory over the G.W. Graham Grizzlies of Chilliwack.
The senior boys AA final was played March 14 at Abbotsford’s Exhibition Park.
The last time Poppy even made the Fraser Valley final was in 1992 when they lost to Aldergrove. Of course, the team rebounded that year to capture the provincial banner.
“This is big boost of confidence for the boys,” said Poppy coach Mike Munsie.
“And it means hopefully a top five seeding in the rankings (at provincials).”
Entering the game, the Grizzlies were ranked fifth among AA schools while Poppy was seventh.
During the regular season, Graham finished first in league play at 6-0 while the Redhawks were second at 4-2. That included a 24-14 loss to the Grizzlies back on April 8.
“The difference was we made a couple of positional moves, moving Harry Senkler to flyhalf, a more natural ball distributor, and Gino Paolella to outside centre to allow him to tuck the ball and run,” said coach Kyle Barry.
“(And) we made four very valuable substitutions whose fresh legs had a big second half impact on the game.”
Barry also credited the sunny and dry weather as well as his team’s ability to shutdown the opposition’s flyhalf and inside centre, who both had big games in the previous matchup.
The only points in the first half of the Fraser Valley final came off the boot of Poppy fullback Sam Sinclair, whose penalty kick went off the left post and in.
The Redhawks controlled play to start the second half but the Grizzlies capitalized on a turnover to score a try to pull ahead 5-3.
Poppy regained possession and drove the ball into Graham territory and after some great runs by Rob Goodey, Matt Theodore scored the winning points on a try with 10 minutes to play.
The Grizzlies pushed for the equalizer, but massive runs by Nick Vandergoes, Brodie Muench and Paolella closed out the game.
“The goal we set at the beginning of the season was to win the Fraser Valleys,” Munsie said.
“We knew that if we could accomplish that, we would be in good position going into the provincial tournament.
“We would love to take a run at the title, but we know that there are four very tough opponents between us and wherever we finish at the tournament.”
The opening round of the provincial tournament begins on May 24 at an undisclosed location.
Rounds two, three and four of the championships will be held at Rotary Stadium and Exhibition Park in Abbotsford on May 28, 29 and 31.