Morning Star Staff
Vernon Jackals came up one game short in their quest for a provincial title.
The Okanagan champion Jackals fell 55-22 Sunday to the top-ranked Terrace Northmen in a battle of the top-two teams in the B.C. Saratoga Cup Division 3 Rugby Finals at Kings Park in Penticton.
“The Northmen had made it to the final due to an impressive back line that lived up to the hype and imposed their will early,” said Jackals captain Bryan Cragg.
Terrace jumped out to an early 20-point lead before steady leadership by veterans Mike Deboer and Dave Ryll calmed things down for Vernon with some key tackles and a 20-yard scamp down the sideline for Ryll to get them on the scoreboard.
The two teams traded scores from that point and the Jackals came within 10 points for a time but in the end Vernon couldn’t dig themselves out of the hole they fell into early.
“Our slow starts had to get us at some point,” said Cragg. “The boys had a great season and showed resiliency today, and it would be tough to complain about finishing second in the entire province.
“The season might be over but the team is already looking to next year and plan to travel to play Terrace in the spring to get the win they didn’t Sunday.”
Vernon opened the tournament against the large and aggressive Kootenays champion, Cranbook, in the provincial semifinal, hanging on for a 10-7 triumph.
It was a physical game right out of the gate as Cranbrook spent the majority of the first half on the doorstep of the try zone, but some incredible defense and effort from import Kiwis Jed Miller and Rich Rankin (New Zealand) were able to limit the damage to 7-0 going into half time.
The second half was typical Jackals rugby and had their forwards popping in two tries from Josh Cooper and rookie Mikey Bridge with gritty runs through multiple defenders.
Vernon clinched the victory with a late goal-line stand.
Terrace advanced to the final with a lopsided semifinal win over the host Penticton Harlequins.
The Harlequins filled in for the Kelowna Crows, who opened their winter season last weekend after going up to the first and second division.
The Harlequins were informed three weeks ago that the Crows could not compete in this weekend’s B.C. Rugby Independent Club Division III championship.