The first-ever national champion of men’s university rugby has been crowned. The UBC Thunderbirds defeated their provincial rival Victoria Vikes 37-12 in the inaugural gold medal game at the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship on a cold, snowy afternoon at the University of Guelph’s Alumni Stadium.
The Thunderbirds hoisted the new Spencer McTavish Trophy, named after the player and coaching legend who spent 30 years with the UBC program.
“It’s a very special moment,” said Thunderbirds’ head coach Rameses Langston. “The trophy being named after a good friend and mentor Spence McTavish makes it mean even more. This was in our sights. We were excited when the tournament came up and we knew it would be a lot of hard work with great teams challenging for this. It’s nice to be recognized throughout the country as the number one university for rugby.”
The champions, who compete with Victoria in the B.C. Premiership, showed their dominance immediately and went up 32-0 after the first half. Wing Cole Keffer, centre Nico Cironomos, eight-man Nick Allen, and Man of the Match lock James Carson, scored four consecutive tries in a 13-minute span of the opening half to seize control over their provincial rival. Outside half Theo Sauder, who led the inaugural tournament in scoring with 41 points, added a penalty kick in the 35th minute, followed by a try from tighthead Clint Lemkus, for a commanding 32-0 lead.
Flanker James O’Neill finally broke through for Victoria in the 68th minute, scoring the Vikes’ first try. After UBC’s Carson touched down for the second time in the match two minutes later, Victoria was given a penalty try in the 75th minute to close the scoring.
“Team is the best description,” Langston said regarding UBC’s effort on Sunday. “Everybody did their jobs. Different guys took it upon themselves to score points and play great defence. I’m just really proud of the way they played as a unit. All 26 guys got to contribute, which is a special thing.”
Victoria head coach Doug Tate was well aware of what UBC could do on the pitch. The Vikes lost to the Thunderbirds 44-24 in league play earlier this season and following an epic 11-11 draw with the host Guelph Gryphons on Saturday that sent Victoria to the final, there wasn’t much left against their strong neighbour.
“They’re a good team,” said Tate. “They outplayed us in the first half and used the wind to their advantage. Both teams had to play in their own end and fight against the wind. It was a fair result. We came back a little bit and it was nice to not get shutout. That’s a pretty powerful team.
“For our guys, they really enjoyed playing against their contemporaries. A lot of these guys competed on rep teams together, provincial teams, so they’re used to playing against each other. And they take a lot of pride in it.”
Tournament Dream Team