Competition in five divisions begins today
The best male and female age-group rugby teams from the Atlantic provinces will be participating in the Eastern Canadian championships starting today in St. John’s.
Close to 400 players, coaches and managers are set to participate in the three-day tournament.
The divisions include under-16, under-18 male provincial sides with under-18, under-20 and senior women’s teams.
All games are scheduled to be played at the Swilers Complex, with the Mount Pearl field available as a backup.
It’s anticipated Newfoundland’s U18 men’s team will take their division championship, while it will be a disappointment if the U16 team doesn’t at least make the final. Because of a lack of competition this summer, none of the provincial female teams are expected to claim victory.
Newfoundland team coaches include Bas Crosbie, Simon Blanks and John Saunders (male U16); Pat Parfrey, Peter Densmore and Geoff Warden (male U18); Roxanne Butler (female U-18 & 20) and Dick Barter (senior women).
“I believe we have potentially a good team,” said U16 coach Crosbie.
“Like any Newfoundland team that is just starting out, we have to temper our expectations and hopes, and remember that for us, this is just the first step in a long journey.
“They will get better the more they play,” noted Crosby who explained the ultimate goal is to develop the players for the senior level of the game.
Crosbie claims the rate of improvement will be enormous, “but we must remember our goal is the players are good by the time they make it to senior rugby. Anything faster than that is a bonus.
“With all that said, we have better depth than we have had in a while.”
The members of the U16 coaching staff says predicting their division winner is tough, although they agree New Brunswick could surprise.
Local rugby fans will be expecting a lot from Newfoundland’s U18s.
“We have quite a strong squad,” admitted Parfrey. “If we bring our defence up to the standard of our offence we’ll be good.”
The Newfoundland senior women will be in tough in a two-game, total-points series against Nova Scotia.
Team captain Andria Cantwell said it hasn’t been easy to prepare for this weekend.
“A lot of our players have only come home from away over the past week. All we can do is work hard during the practice time we have together and, when we get on the field to play, we just have to have fun and play simple rugby,” said Cantwell.
Despite being a huge underdog, Cantwell says team spirit is “one of our strengths. The girls are looking forward to a couple of competitive games.
“This year is especially nice since the senior women will get the opportunity to play in front of a home crowd. There hasn't been much senior women’s rugby played in Newfoundland for a few years.”
Staying close to Nova Scotia won’t be easy, said Cantwell.
“They have to be stopped before they gain the line. Defence is key. We just need to play as a unit,” she said.
Regardless of the outcome, Cantwell said her team will take pleasure in the moment.
“We love playing rugby and we love playing together. A lot of us have been playing together for many years. It’s what we enjoy doing.”
The organizing committee includes tournament program coordinator Butler; IRB/RC tournament guidelines coordinator Crosbie; tournament officiating coordinator Sean Clancy; safety and athletic therapy coordinator Corinne Humby and communications coordinator Carl Allwood.
Games in the Eastern Canadian tournaments will be held throughout today starting 9 a.m. at the upper and lower fields at Swilers Complex. Play continues Saturday, with the medal games set for Sunday.
In conjunction with the festival, a senior men’s exhibition match between Newfoundland and an Atlantic Select team will be played 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Swilers Complex.
Provincial Rosters/Opening-Day Schedules
Under 16 men
2 p.m., Nfld. vs New Brunswick
6 p.m., Nfld. vs P.E.I.
11 a.m., Nfld. vs P.E. I.
4 p.m., Nfld. vs Nova Scotia
9 a.m., Nfld. vs Nova Scotia
3 p.m., Nfld. vs New Brunswick
Noon, Nfld. vs Nova Scotia
5 p.m., Nfld. vs Nova Scotia
• To view full schedule and results see: easterns.vandalsrugby.ca
Newfoundland team rosters
Senior women: Stephanie Flemming (prop), Gilian Forward (hooker), Audrey Marquette (prop), Jess Wong (hooker/2nd row), Desiree Simmons (2nd row/back row), Robyn Power (2nd row/back row), Erica Saabas (back row), Caroline Binette (back row), Leah Downton (No.8), Danielle Browne (scrum half),
Charlene Barter (fly half), Andria Cantwell
(centre), Casey Thorburn (centre), Holly Thomson (wing), Rebecca Long (wing), Alanna Scammell (wing), Deidre Rees (fullback), Kate McCarthy (wing).
U18 women: Amber Walsh, Becky Mercer, Courtney Pike, Holly Todhunter, Isobel McKenna, Jenna Butler, Natasha Cobb, Sarah Harris, Sophie-Rose Pickard, Zoey Walsh, Erin Boland, Kathleen Daly, Kelsey Hynes, Kim Radford, Lauren Humby, Luci Thomson, Sarah Newhook.
U20 women: Emily Wiscombe, Holly Whittle, Jessica Todhunter, Kara Budgell, Nicole McCormack, Kelsey Brown, Renata Lang, Robyn Woodrow, Tara Power, Tieshia Quinlan, Carolyn Woolridge, Katherine Stevenson, Kayla Mosher, Lindsay Dwyer, Victoria Whitten, Melissa Kaulback, Samantha Major.
U18 men: Props — Kyle Stanley, Justin Aylward, Robert Burry, Connor Simms, Shane Froude; Hookers — Alex O’Keefe, Malcolm Salmon; Second rows — Nathan Thomas, Patrick Dalton, Kaelan Mahoney, Sam Newhook; Flankers — Joel Tompkins, Matthew Murphy, Mitch
Ryan; Number 8 — Kieran Lacey;
Scrumhalves — Tony Pomroy, Colin Kavanagh; Outhalves — David Johnson, Gud Bjarnason; Centres — Trevor Bessette, Greg Dodge, Sean O’Grady, Peter Walsh; Wings: Ben Coughlan, Ryan Subject, Mark Connolly; fullback — Marc Petro
U16 men: Matthew Baldwin (flanker), Nick Boggan (hooker), Michael Boone (2nd row), Liam Browne (prop), Sam Caylor (prop), Aaron Gaudon (prop), David Hiscock (back row), Jack McCann (hooker), Andrew Miller (prop), Justin Murphy (2nd row), Liam Murphy (prop), Ben Newhook (back row), Andrew Schamper (prop), Craig Wood (flanker), Lucas Woodford (back row), Jaako Laitnen (prop), Nathan Tuck (prop), D’Arcy Bennett (flyhalf), Alex Bugden (wing), Tyler Ennis (centre), Ryan Farrell, (scrum half), Alex Murray (wing), Mark Oake (back row), Jack O’Flahery (scrum half), Michael O’Grady (back), Daniel Rideout (fullback), Riley Simms (fly half), Brady Walsh (centre), Paddy Slaney (centre), Griffin Sheldon (wing), Will Small (wing), Mike Cowley (back).