Castaway Wanderers and UVic collide in B.C. Premier Rugby League quarter-final

One can never tell what the post-season brackets will bring in sports.

Fate has propelled the Castaway Wanderers and University of Victoria Vikes into a B.C. Premier Rugby League playoff quarter-final cross-town derby today at 2:30 p.m. at Windsor Park.

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This is such a family feud that Steve Harvey may need to officiate the game. There are many connections between these two programs, both of which have contributed heavily over the years to Canada’s national team roster.

UVic alumni now playing for CW include James Pitblado, Dustin Dobravsky, Clayton Thornber, Riley Ilnicki, Liam Chisholm, Sawyer Herron, Luke Bradley, Fergus Hall, Matt Sutherland and CW captain Nathan Stewart.

Even CW head coach Scott Manning played for the Vikes.

Players from the CW junior program, or younger former CW senior players, now playing for UVic include Ethan Hagar, Gavin and Lockie Kratz, Brennig Prevost, Aiden Cole, Callum Masterton, Carter White, Nik Carson, Jonas Robinson, Jason Deshkewytz, Ethan Hall and Kapi Vataiki.

“There are no secrets,” UVic head coach Doug Tate said, in maybe the understatement of the season.

CW bench boss Manning relishes any opportunity to match wits on the opposite sideline against his former Vikes mentor Tate, who taught Manning when the latter was taking his masters-in-coaching program at UVic. “We always try to one-up each other,” Manning said.

Third seed CW finished 13-3 in the regular season, just missing second place, and a first-round bye, by a single bonus point to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds (13-3). That same fate befell the UBCOB Ravens, who were also 13-3, and meet sixth seed Seattle (7-9) in today’s other quarter-final, at Jericho Park in Vancouver.

The Vikes placed fifth at 10-6. The winner of the CW-UVic game will advance to face top seed Burnaby Lake (14-2) in the semifinals next weekend on the Lower Mainland. The Ravens-Seattle quarter-final winner will play the Thunderbirds in the other semifinal next week at UBC.

The 2019 Rounsefell Cup provincial championship game is scheduled for May 4 at Burnaby Lake.

Expect a track meet today in the quarter-final between UVic and CW. The Vikes led the B.C. Premiership with 734 points scored while CW was second with 652. Consider that top seed Burnaby Lake, which plays a more grinding style, only scored 505 points in winning the regular-season crown.

“This is going to be a highly-offensive game with lots of speed and skill,” Tate said. “Both these teams can score a lot of points and go wide with ball in hand.”

No one can deny what either team can do offensively, so, perhaps, it will come down to one or two key stops defensively.

“The team that comes up with the defensive stops at the right moments will win,” Tate said.

Manning concurred that while everyone will be watching the scoreboard light up like a pinball wizard working a machine, it will be the defensive heroics at crucial junctures that will decide the game.

“We have to keep them out of our [try zone] as much as possible, so our tackling today will be very important,” Manning said.

So it goes in what is a family reunion at Windsor Park — minus the picnic blankets.

SCRUM NOTES: Westshore RFC and James Bay Athletic Association were both 5-11 and placed seventh and eighth, respectively this season and did not make the playoffs. Nanaimo was 3-12-1 to finish 11th in the 12-team B.C. Premiership.

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