Vilna rugby players compete at provincials
Earlier this month, male athletes from Vilna School, that play on a combined team with H.A. Kostash out of Smoky Lake, participated at the provincial rugby championships in Edmonton. Despite being one of the smallest schools represented, the team performed well and improved its seeding for next year’s tournament.
Coach Joe Harrington said he was very pleased with the amount of effort the boys put in during the season and the determination shown at the provincial tournament where they got a taste of the level of skill the team needs to win.
“We hit a lot of milestones this year. We won our first game of the season and did quite well after,” Harrington said. “We scored a lot of tries and had a strong offensive and defensive team. We shut teams down. There were two games where other teams scored zero or one try.”
This was the first year students from Vilna School took part in competitive rugby play and after the provincial tournament, where the team won one game and lost the other two, the combined squad is now ranked sixth in the province, which is up two spots.
“It let the guys see where they need to be to compete at that level,” the coach said, regarding provincials. “We were in the games and it was close. It was a good first go at provincials.
“They (boys) were glad to see we can play with these teams,” he added. “Even though we’re two schools combined, we’re still a small school. When we play as a team and as a unit, we can compete.”
What was most impressive, according to Harrington, was that before the season, some of the players had never even seen a rugby ball before. After months of training, however, the team thrashed Cold Lake to qualify for provincials.
“To go from there and progress so much to be playing at the provincial level was great,” he said. “They were a little apprehensive about coming out because they didn’t know the game, but once they got a little contact, they loved it.”
Although the team is losing several key players who are graduating, the coach said next year the team will focus more on the forwards in the scrums and moving the ball up the middle. He hopes they can keep the momentum from last year’s success going.
The Vilna girls also joined a combined team with H.A. Kostash and because the team was very young this year, Harrington believes it has a good shot at making it to provincials within the next two seasons.
“They learned a lot,” he said about the girls’ team, that struggled this season with a lack of experience. “Next year we should get some wins.”
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