The Penticton Harlequins are planning to quash the Vernon Jackals hopes of a three-peat in the Okanagan Rugby Union final Saturday, July 7 at Grahame Park in Vernon.
The match is a repeat of the previous two year’s championships between the two teams after Penticton had won the year prior.
The Harlequins earned the right to battle for the title by pounding the Salmon Arm Manthers 48-5 last Saturday in Salmon Arm.
The Jackals reached the championship game for the third-straight year by crushing the Kelowna Crows 51-5 in the semifinals Saturday, also in Salmon Arm.
“It was our best game so far this season, with the guys sticking pretty closely to our game plan,” said Harlequins player/coach Brenden Ferreira about his team’s effort on the field Saturday. “The forwards laid a good foundation giving the backline plenty of time and space to do some damage.
“There have been a few things we have been working on through the season, and to see them executed well in the semi-final was very satisfying.”
Also pleasing to the coach was the fact the team did not allow a point in the first 15 minutes of the game, a rarity this season.
He added the strong second half was also a testament to the players’ fitness level.
There were a few minor injuries in the semi-final however he expects those to heal up by the time the championship rolls around.
“Both the finals in the last two years have been very close hard fought affairs,” said Ferreira. “Our last game against them (Vernon) was just the same. We lost that game after having given them two easy tries due to our mistakes. So one priority will certainly be to make as few mistakes as possible, especially in our own half.”
Meanwhile, the first-year Cows were coming off a 77-point showing against the Salmon Arm Manthers, but couldn’t contain the highly physical Jackals. Vernon was not taking the Cows lightly.
“Nobody wants to be that team that could have been great but shoots themselves in the foot,” said Vernon coach Clay Coles, who all week in practice preached about putting in the work and noting Kelowna’s desire to pull an upset.”
And according to the Jackals captain, while Vernon handled Penticton in the regular season, his club is not taking its finalist opponent lightly.
“This season, we’ve had their number but the last three years (finals) they have come out hard; every one has been decided by less than a score so it’s going to be a close fight,” said Bryan Cragg.
The Jackals stopped the Harlequins 37-10 and 27-17 in regular-season tilts this year.
A playoff game for third place is scheduled for July 7 between Salmon Arm and Kelowna for 11 a.m. with the final set for 1:30 p.m. There may be a ladies exhibition at 12:30 p.m.