The Belmont Bulldogs definitely turned heads at the B.C. High School Girls Sevens Rugby Championships in Vancouver.
The second-year squad, featuring just two Grade 11 and two Grade 12 players among a collection of younger athletes, came within seconds of forcing overtime against defending champion Oak Bay in Saturday’s final, only to lose 15-10 on an Oak Bay try with no time on the clock.
“It was an amazing game,” said Belmont coach Charlotte Haley, whose voice was hoarse from the weekend. “The girls left everything out on the field. You couldn’t ask for more from them. They played amazing defence and moved the ball well on offence … I’m just super proud of their performance and they represented their school and their city well.”
The ball was a little slippery due to a steady rain that fell, but it didn’t stop the Bulldogs from attacking quickly and taking advantage of openings in the Oak Bay defence. Maliyah Colombe opened scoring for the West Shore team with a try, which Oak Bay responded to with one of their own.
Standout fullback Denise Roy put Belmont back on top before the first half was over, making it 10-5 with another try. The Bulldogs didn’t let up on defence, but Oak Bay managed to go over the try line early in the second half to tie the game. Belmont continued to lay on some crushing tackles, led by fly half Maggie MacKinnon, to keep their talented opponents on their heels.
But they found an opening as the final seconds ticked away and scored the winning points in the corner, then smothered Belmont after one last kickoff.
“I think the girls gained valuable experience of what it’s like playing in a provincial championship,” Haley said. “We have a solid foundation for the future. They looked like a seven-a-side team out there, not just a bunch of girls running around.”
She said her players made their first impact at the tournament when they hammered highly rated Abbotsford 47-0 to open pool play on Friday. “We put our names on the map (with that win); people were walking around asking ‘who’s Belmont? Where are they from?’”
The Bulldogs followed with a 46-7 win over Chatelech from the Sunshine Coast, and a 27-0 victory over Houston to go 3-0 and win their pool.
The Belmont players came out flying in the quarter-finals against North Van’s Handsworth, running at will and racking up a 41-5 win. Up against Island rival Cowichan in the semis, the Bulldogs used tremendous defence to keep the score low in the first half, then exploded on offence to win going away, 35-0.
The depth of the Belmont program came in handy, as Haley predicted, with every player getting into matches on the Friday and helping push the team forward.
Other players who saw action over the weekend included Sierra Gilliam, Morgana Adby, Megan Silviera, Silken Tschofen, Jena Janmohamed, Zoe Williams, Daryana Mielecka, Ashanti Whyte, Rachel Saunders, Anieka Hart, Renee Cook, Sarah Lembcke and Ashley Stephenson. Players unable to make the trip but who will be on the roster as league play starts this week are MacKenzie Scullion, Marley Power and Tia Chhina.
The Bulldogs host Esquimalt plus St. Michaels A and B in league play this Friday.