It wasn’t a gem of a start for the Pen High Lakers senior girls rugby team against the Salmon Arm Jewels in AAA Okanagan Valley high school rugby playoffs.
Lakers coach Ian Butters was nervous before his team prevailed 22-7 over the Salmon Arm Jewels 22-7 at McNicoll Park Wednesday afternoon.
“The first half was scary because it was very much a repeat of some of the games we’ve had that have been weak this season,” said Butters, whose team lost just once this year against the NorKam Saints, 27-7.
Butters watched as his players were unable to get organized as the Jewels were aggressive and their tackling did not allow the Lakers to run free. Kendra Penner of the Lakers opened the scoring, while Elena Greig converted on the kick. The Jewels countered back on a try from Avia Latosky and a converted kick by Grace Rempel for a 7-7 score at the end of the half.
Butters felt his players were in their own heads too much, but eventually created their own breaks.
In the second half, Greig converted a penalty kick to give the Lakers a 10-7 lead that gradually grew. Butters said his group dominated and had the game under control.
“Most of it was from the veterans,” said Butters. “Once they remembered the things agreed to do, that changed everything.”
Also playing a big part in the win were the Grade 9s. Butters said a handful of them stepped up and made the right decisions, including Julia Speirs making a play that led to a final try scored by Lorreine Stanley.
Butters said the Jewels were the perfect test as they get a second crack at the Saints while trying to defend their Okanagan Valley championship.
“I think we learned a lot,” she said, adding that the Lakers picked up their intensity in the second half. “That was a real fight. Salmon Arm really fought hard. It was a struggle for us. When it was tied up, we were sort of slowed down.”
Junior Lakers crush Rockets
The Lakers advanced to the quarter-final game in junior boys rugby before having to make their first play in a 67-0 win against the Summerland Rockets. The Rockets arrived at McNicoll Park Wednesday with 12 players, so the Lakers lent them three. Lakers coach Ken Sommerfeldt said it was more of a practice for his team.
He said his group played well and they ran hard with the ball and were strong with tackling. He also liked that his team put a lid on the Rockets’ offence.
Sommerfeldt said their next opponent, which isn’t known yet, will be strong. That game is on May 13 at McNicoll Park and will be the Lakers’ final home game.