Westshore RFC Valkyries ball carrier Shannon Fitzpatrick battles her way through a group of would-be tacklers from Burnaby Lake during Saturday’s B.C. Rugby premier women’s division Cup semifinal at Westshore Parks and Recreation. The locals won 53-5.

Westshore Valkyries headed to rugby showdown

Westshore RFC qualifies two teams for provincial finals in inaugural season playing at Juan de Fuca field

When the Westshore Valkyries and Castaway-Wanderers meet at Macdonald Park to decide the B.C. premier women’s division Cup championship, there’ll be a definite air of familiarity.

Not just because the teams have played each other twice in recent weeks, but because six players from last year’s B.C. premier champion Velox (now West-shore) shifted over to CW to help build the Oak Bay club’s numbers and competitiveness.

The defending champs still have the edge in experience, however, with 12 of their current starting 15 in the lineup for last year’s title match.

“There’s a friendly rivalry there, but at the end of the day it’s still a competition and both teams want to win,” said Westshore Rugby Football Club president Mark Wyatt. Emotions will be running high on the pitch, he added and as much as there’s respect between the teams, they’ll both be doing what they can to gain the edge.

The Valkyries, who topped the B.C. league at 12-2-1 this season, rolled over Burnaby Lake 53-5 in last Saturday’s Cup semifinal at Westshore Parks and Recreation.

Selina McGinnis and Chelsea Minter scored two tries each to lead the Vals’ attack, while Lisa Gauthier, Randi Hunter, Barbara Mervin, Rosie Lang and Brittany Simms added singles. Hunter also kicked four conversions on the day.

Westshore rides a seven-game win streak into this weekend’s match. The win over Burnaby Lake was an emphatic one and avenged one of the Vals’ only two losses of the regular season, a 24-19 decision back on Feb. 27 on the mainland, although the visitors were missing some key players that day, Wyatt said.

Valkyries head coach Clay Panga likes the way his team is rounding into shape at the right time of the season.

“The two games leading up to (the final) were an excellent example of the girls playing a full 80 minutes,” he said. “A few of our performances this season were, I’d say, 50 minutes of solid play then we fell off a bit. The girls are really playing as a team and I think we’ve just really found our structure.”

Containing the speedy and crafty CW backline will be job one, he said, but the Valkyries match up well.

“We have some really big forwards and we like to take advantage of that fact. But we also have some very creative backs … We have the luxury where at virtually every position in the backfield, we have players who can push for national selection.”

CW, who wound up second in the regular season at 11-4, beat Seattle 47-29 in the other semifinal Saturday.

Despite the fact his team has defeated Castaway-Wanderers twice in the past month or so – 27-17 at Juan de Fuca and 32-15 at Windsor Park – Panga pointed out that this has been a breakout season for CW. They train hard and smart and continue to make strides, he said.

That said, the presence of such core veteran players as Marlene Donaldson, Mervin and others has brought a “high-performance” feel to the Valkyries; a “winning attitude and a championship mindset.” Not only has that environment helped the team raise its level of skill and competitiveness, Panga said it has provided inspiration to him as both a player and coach.

Game time Saturday is tentatively set for 11:30 a.m. at Macdonald Park in James Bay.

Westshore RFC Div. 3 men look to secure provincial crown as well

The Westshore Div. 3 men’s side is also contesting a B.C. championship this weekend in James Bay.

The Valhallians, who won the Island division with a 7-1 mark, downed Brit Lions ‘A’ 7-3 in a tightly contested semifinal on Saturday in Delta. That sets up the 3A Cup final against undefeated Kelowna this Saturday at 1 p.m. at Macdonald Park.

Kelowna, winners of Group 1 on the mainland with an 8-0 mark, beat Simon Fraser 45-3 in the other semifinal last weekend.

Westshore captured the Island third division crown on their home field at Juan de Fuca earlier this month with a 53-5 thumping of Comox, after dispatching Nanaimo 73-5.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

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