Playing against older competition halfway across the world was no trouble for a team of Bayside Sharks youth rugby players last week.
Over spring break, Bayside’s under-18 junior girls team – which this year is primarily made up of 15- to 17-year-old players – travelled to New Zealand, where they participated in various camps, took part in various cultural experiences and went undefeated en route to a first-place finish at the 2019 North Island Secondary School Sevens Tournament, which was hosted by the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union.
The Sharks squad – made up of nine Earl Marriott Secondary players, one from Elgin Park Secondary and three from Abbotsford – defeated Trident College of Whakatane, N.Z. in the final game, by a 25-5 score.
“I went in for high hopes that we’d be in the top three or four teams, because of the skill of our girls and how hard they’ve trained,” Bayside U18s head coach Glen Sharpe told Peace Arch News Monday, one day after arriving home.
“We had a two hour training session two hours after landing in New Zealand, so the girls were pretty keen to do well. But they definitely played at their top level. they stepped their game up.”
The team’s first three games – all played in one day – were all victories, with Bayside outscoring their opponents by a combined scored of 84-7. The final two games were much more difficult, Sharpe said.
“The first three games were great – we won those games fairly well – but the final two games, the competition really stepped up… the team we played in the final was a very, very tough, competitive team. They definitely didn’t want that trophy to go back to Canada, and they came out guns a-blazing.”
The Kiwis scored off the opening kickoff, but the Canadian side rebounded quickly and earned the win.
“The girls could have folded the tent, and said ‘OK, maybe this is one step too far’ but they didn’t. They fought back and really pressured them on defence, turned over a lot of balls and scored on every opportunity we had.”
Robyn Alexander and Madi Makara were both named to the tournament all-star team.
In addition to the sevens tournament, the team also took part in training and coaching sessions in Auckland, and players got the opportunity to meet recently retired Black Ferns player Linda Ituna, see an original New Zealand All Blacks jersey from 1905, and also observe a training session where, according to a post on Bayside’s Facebook page, “they got to see first hand how the best players in the world train/practice.”
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