The University of Victoria Vikes men’s rugby team returns to the pitch this Saturday, Sept. 26, in Colwood, B.C. at the Westshore Recreation Centre against Westshore RFC on their quest for the Barnard Cup. The Vikes dominated their first game of the 2015 BC Rugby and Vancouver Island Rugby Union season at Wallace Field, winning 32-0 over rivals James Bay Athletic Association to start their season off with a 1-0 record.
The clean sheet complimented a strong defensive showing from the Vikes on Saturday, Sept. 19, including a shutdown of the James Bay offence after the Vikes were reduced to 14 players for the final fifteen minutes of the first half. Tries from Vikes scrumhalf James Pitblado, flanker Luke Williamson, Bhiamie Williamson and a pair from winger Crosby Stewart led the way for the Vikes while outside half Guiseppe du Toit added two converts and one penalty kick to help the Vikes to the victory.
The win adds to the Vikes’ dominance on home turf, moving their home record to 10-1-1 in their last 12 games including last season at Wallace Field.
“Shutting out teams in this league isn’t easy,” said Vikes men’s rugby head coach Doug Tate. “We were giving up on average 15 to 20 points last year but outscoring them by enough. It’s a good sign. If we can play well defensively, that would be a big improvement on last year.”
The Vikes came out comfortable winners in their only matchup with Westshore last season in the Bernard Cup, winning 78-10 on Sept. 6 at Wallace Field. Returning 2015-16 Vikes Stewart, du Toit, flanker Isaac Kaay and fullback Fergus Hall each added two tries in the win.
Westshore were on the opposite side of their first result of the season against the Castaway Wanderers this past weekend, losing 62-26 to fall to 0-1 on the season.
For Westshore, it’s a season of unpredictability with the addition of a crop of new players at the club along with the logistics of relocating and rebranding their side. The former Velox Rugby Club has relocated to Colwood this season under the direction of two former Vikes – Mark Wyatt and Mike Holms. In comparison to last year’s team, Vikes head coach Doug Tate is expecting that unpredictability to play into Saturday’s game due to a relatively unfamiliar Westshore line-up.
“They’re working hard to get to the next level, which is good for the league,” said Tate. “I really believe that room out there is a good one. We expect a hard game as usual – there are several former Vikes players in their ranks now and obviously that makes them a stronger team. As always, we will need to be at our best and play well.”
The Vikes make several changes to their starting XV for this game – the back-row will continue to be rotated, and this week Nathan Stewart and Luke Campbell start at the flanker positions and Luke Bradley maintains his #8 position.
The back three remains unchanged for the second game of the season. Speedster Crosby Stewart, who scored two tries last week against James Bay, is on one wing and Kapi Vataiki holds down his position on the other wing while Fergus Hall remains at fullback.
“It is a pretty talented and quick back three,” noted Tate. “And we expect them to excel on the firm pitch out in Colwood.”
James Pitblado continues to captain the Vikes from the scrum-half position – it is his second start captaining the varsity side.
“James has done a good job at running the team to this point and has shown excellent leadership skills,” said Tate.
The centre position(s) will change with the injury to Isaac Kaay and a medical report for power runner Joe Erlic pending by Friday that’s needed in order for him to play on Saturday.
“This selection may change as late as Friday,” observed Tate. “We are still waiting for a fitness clearance on Joe (Erlic) – if he can’t play things will change significantly.”
Saturday’s game goes at 2:45 p.m. in Colwood, B.C. while the Vikes also head south to the Western Washington 7s Invitational in Bellingham, Wash. Sept. 26-27.