Halfback Sam Zuill scored three tries in a winning effort against Cranbrook, giving the Elk Valley Rugby Football Club (RFC) a chance to become provincial champions.
The Australian-born player dazzled fans at the Fernie Secondary School field on Saturday, where he completed several length-of-the-field breakaways to score.
“It was a good feeling,” said Zuill of his tries. “Ran a fair way for them.”
The Bulls won 44-27 and will face the Rocky Mountain Rogues for a June 17 winner-take-all rematch. The victor will compete for the Saratoga Cup at the provincial rugby championships taking place in Penticton in July.
“It’s a big game,” said Zuill. “It could go either way.”
Elk Valley RFC team captain Pete Dudman said he was happy with his team’s effort.
“We’re playing good rugby down here in the Kootenays,” he said. “We always have good fun playing these guys. We defended in patches extremely well. We were calling men out and actually facing up, then we got tired and it got a bit sloppy towards the end but the defence was awesome.”
Despite having a relatively small pool of players to choose from, the Bulls have proven to be rugby juggernauts and have twice won the Saratoga Cup in their last four seasons.
“It was a hard fought battle out there, nobody gave an inch and there were big hits,” said team manager Andrew McFarlane, who likes the Bull’s chances in their next game against Cranbrook.
“We’re a match for anybody,” he said.
McFarlane also thanked the Fernie Brewing Company and the Fernie Hotel and Pub for sponsoring the team.
After the Bulls game the Bullettes, the Elk Valley’s women’s rugby team, also played a game against their rivals from Cranbrook.
After a scrappy match, the Bullettes were defeated 17-15. The hard-fought game featured a number of injuries.
In fact, the Elk Valley’s Alison Smith was playing an excellent first half before having her face stepped on by an opposing player.
“I tackled somone and it wasn’t the cleanest tackle on my part,” she said. “I tried to pull her down and she fell onto my face with her foot. I couldn’t play anymore, which was sad but I’m not actually hurt.”
Smith received on-site sutures to her face and remarked that “it was nice,” that she didn’t have to go to the hospital.
Bullettes winger Mandy Merrill scored first for her team, running most of the length of the field for a try.
“I just gunned it because that’s all I really know how to do,” conceded Merrill. “It was as good as it gets as far as running goes. I don’t want to be tackled so that motivates me to run faster.”
Cranbrook and the Elk Valley will be joining forces to send a combined team to provincials. It will be the first time the Elk Valley women compete for the Saratoga Cup.
“Both our teams struggle for numbers,” said team captain Min Merritt. “And we’d rather send one strong team.”
The combined Cranbrook-Elk Valley team will be playing the Calgary Rams this coming Saturday at the Fernie Secondary School pitch. Kickoff is at 4 p.m.