The UBC Okanagan Heat Rugby Team performed admirably in their first shot at the National University Seven’s Championship that was held in Vancouver March 11/12, 2011. The first day of play was a tough learning experience as the Heat lost three straight games to the University of Calgary (22-0), University of Victoria (29-7) and McMaster University (29-5). After day one the Heat rated 4th in Pool A.
On the second and final day of the tournament, the elimination play schedule, the Heat stepped up with some impressive performances. In their first game the Heat matched up against the 1st ranked team from the B pool, the Western Mustangs. The Mustangs compiled an impressive 3-0 record on opening day including a 21 – 17 win over the UBC Thunderbirds, and therefore, were the heavy favorites against the winless Heat. The physically larger and more experienced Mustangs started the scoring early with an impressive offensive attack that would put them up 7-0. The underdog Heat team came right back with their own offensive foray when Chris Hill broke a number of tackles and headed straight up the middle to score the Heat’s first try of the game.
The Mustangs followed with an unconverted try near the end of the half to go into the break with a 12-7 lead. In the second half the Heat began pressing offensively, which drew a number of penalties and eventually resulted in a Mustang player landing in the sin bin for 2 minutes. Sean Kelman took advantage of the man advantage and touched a beautify try in near the post to give the Heat a 14-12 lead with 2 minutes left in the game. The inexperienced Heat were unable to hold on as the Mustangs scored a try in the last minute of play to take the win 17-14.
In the second game of the day, the Heat soundly defeated a well-coached Mount Royal squad 24-7 on a pair of tries from Judah Campbell and a second pair from 18 year old David-James Pauls.
This first Heat win set up a first day rematch between the Heat and the University of Calgary, Calgary quickly took the young Heat squad to task with 2 quick converted tries. 19 year old Liam Chisholm of the Heat responded with a beautiful try that highlighted his skills and impressing all in attendance, including team Canada officials bringing the score to 12-7 at half.
In the second half the Heat came out strong and pressed hard offensively leading to a Tim Coles using a powerful straight arm to break free and score another Heat try. Barak Pauls made the convert and the Heat held the lead 14-12. The team failed to hold the lead again with under 1 minute remaining; Calgary scored the winning try to take the lead once and for all 17-14.
Heat coach Rob O’Brien was pleased that although finishing sixth in the eight team tournament this past weekend, that the Heat proved that they could compete at the National level against teams with established programs. “I think we performed well enough to prove that we can compete at the top level of rugby in Canada. We were 1 minute away from being ranked in the top 4 nationally by our performance this weekend as the team that just beat us in the final minute [Western Mustangs] finished 2nd. Our performance was much better than the 6th place finish we formally ended up with.”
The future of rugby looks bright for the new program at UBC, the Heat was the youngest and least experienced team, with the majority of players being under 20 years old. “We had a series of inexperienced players who were in general younger and smaller than our competition,” adds O’Brien, “never-the-less, they stood strong and with this experience and a year of training we would be legitimate contenders for one of the top 4 places in the country.”
Video’s and other stories from the tournament can be found by going to the Rugby Canada Site.; http://www.rugbycanada.ca/
Specific links to the UBC Okanagan Games are provided below. Official game results are available at the following link;
Game vs Western (Note starts ~12 minutes in) http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/13275588 Game vs MT Royal http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/13278992 Game vs Calgary (Bowl Final) http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/13282680