The script had the perfect ending.
Shawnigan's senior boys produced another stellar second half on Friday, as they returned to the top of the Provincial rugby podium.
The Provincial quest began in earnest on May 23, when the boys defeated Oak Bay High School to earn the Vancouver Island title and the No. 1 spot at the four-team AAAA BC Championship.
Wednesday's semifinal brought another matchup with Oak Bay – a side that Shawnigan had beaten three times this season, but had lost to in last year's Provincial final.
Leading by a single point at halftime, Shawnigan surged late to earn a 41-26 victory. "It's just our culture, I guess … we're resilient," says Shawnigan Captain Ciaran B., who was a member of the group that fell to Oak Bay in last year's final. Ciaran played a critical role in the semifinal victory, scoring two tries in the final ten minutes. He says the expectation on his teammates was immense, but that the adversity and pressure also helped them focus. "The thought of losing the banner two years in a row?" he pauses – "That brings a lot of pressure."
Advancing to their 12th consecutive top-tier final, Shawnigan matched up against St. George's School – a perennial rival and victor of this year's Provincial sevens title.
As it turned out, the final followed a similar pattern, with St. George's generating substantial early pressure and staking a 12-6 lead at halftime.
Shawnigan, however, seemed unfazed, earning two second half tries plus the third successful penalty of the game from fly-half Jamin H. to win 21-12.
"Our defence was the secret," says Shawnigan Coach Andrew Doyle, whose team stayed true to the game plan despite the deficit. "We grind opponents down - wave after wave of physical defence - it wears teams down." Coach Doyle says his team was prepared to play from behind, comfortable with the powerful scorers capable of breaking the game open and knowing that the constant tackling would eventually pay dividends.
For Ciaran, the bonds created within the team were also key. "The emotions of playing together for the last time – especially for the Grade 12s – It meant a lot and helped focus us."
Supported by peers cheering as they watched the livestream as well as a small but vocal contingent of junior boys at Rotary Stadium, the final whistle brought an outpouring of emotions as the team celebrated the championship that had eluded them last year. "It was my main goal all year," insists Ciaran, who also toured with the Canadian U-18 squad and represented Canada at the World School Sevens in New Zealand in December. "It was in slow motion in my mind, watching my teammates," Ciaran recalls. "It was so joyful."
Shawnigan's senior boys title came one week after the Girls XV defended its AAA rugby title
on home turf. Earlier on Friday, the Colts prevailed over Rockridge Secondary in the Provincial third-place contest.