High school rugby players got a chance to compete where the big boys and girls play last Friday.
The fourth annual Westshore Sunrise Rotary SD62 Startup Sevens tournament attracted teams from around Greater Victoria, up Island and the Lower Mainland, who tested their mettle at Westhills Stadium, home turf of the Canadian rugby programs.
Glenlyon Norfolk and Edward Milne won the senior boys and girls Cup titles, respectively, with 4-0 records, while the Belmont junior boys took their Cup with a 4-0 mark. The Belmont senior boys won the Bowl title.
Co-organizer John Lyall, a teacher and coach at Edward Milne secondary in Sooke and a longtime member of the Velox (now Westshore) rugby club, estimates that between the high school tournament and this Friday’s (April 8) middle school event, between 600 and 700 student athletes will take part.
“I would say in general that rugby sevens is exciting; I know our kids are really excited about it,” he said.
The Startup Sevens offer players with varied skill levels the opportunity to experience game time, sometimes against opponents who’ve spent more time learning the sport. Showing the growth in the sport at the grassroots levels, last week’s event also saw nine senior girls teams playing, compared to none last year.
The enthusiasm level for this spring mainstay is always high for this event, Lyall said.
“We’re starting to become ‘on the map,’” he said, noting that many teams register well in advance to ensure they secure a spot. Anytime they can provide a venue for students to keep active and learn, it’s a good thing, he added.
Some schools go all out when it comes to sending teams to this event. Among the middle schools, W.A. Fraser from Abbotsford is bringing eight teams, while Chief Dan George, also in Abbotsford and coached by international level referee Chris Assmuss, is bringing three.
The startup tournaments also provides a good way to build excitement for the upcoming World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series tournament at Westhills Stadium, Lyall said. “Plus the kids like to play on the same field as the national team plays on. It is kind of fun for them.”
The middle school games run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Westhills and Goudy fields.