The Elk Valley Bulls rugby team returned from a provincial tournament with their heads high, placing second in the coveted Saratoga Cup.
Hosted in Vernon from September 7 to 8, the Saratoga Cup is contested by teams from three regions; the Okanagan, the Kootenays and the Interior.
The Bulls faced off against three teams; the Terrace Northmen, the Vernon Jackals and the Rocky Mountain Rogues (Cranbrook), the defending champions.
On Saturday the Bulls beat Vernon, and Terrace beat Cranbrook, which put the Elk Valley team against Terrace in Sunday’s final.
What followed was a nail biter of a game, but concluded with a scoring try by Terrace in the final play of overtime.
“It was so back and forth,” said Bull’s #8 player, Robie Labine.
“The girl who handed out the trophy was just like – we can’t remember the last time there was an overtime at the Saratoga Cup. It was awesome,” he said.
Although the game ended in a loss, Labine credited the Elk Valley players for always battling and never giving up.
The final play of the game isn’t one that will be soon forgotten.
Overtime in rugby is unlike other sports. When the game ends in a tied scored, two five minutes halves are added on, and the leader after that is declared the winner.
In the five minutes that followed, neither team was able to secure any points. The referee announced that what followed would be the final play of the first half of overtime.
“They had this one player, this guy was like a juggernaut – it was like tackling a running tree,” explained Labine. “It would take four of us to stop him.
“He got the ball, people slowed him up, and I ran and threw myself at him, and I just got him to step on the line. He threw the ball back to keep it in play but he had stepped out,” said Labine.
Nearing the end of the second half of overtime, the referee again announced it was the final play of the game. The Bulls had the ball, with about half the field in front of them. Labine remembers running down the sideline, waiting for a pass.
“I was thinking give me this ball, I’m going to score, I’m going to win, it’s going to be amazing, and then all of a sudden the balls popping – someone dropped the ball – and he (the tree) picks it up,” said Labine.
Miraculously, a Bulls player tackled ‘the tree’, but the Terrace player managed to pass it off to another teammate who, according to Labine, was their next best player. A dodge and sprint by this player resulting in Terrace scoring a try and securing the victory.
The match ended with a 23-18 victory for Terrace.
In reflection of the tournament, Labine said it was a highlight of the season.
“Vernon is an incredible host, they do a great job and it should be on every rugby club’s list of things to do and places to go and play rugby,” said Labine.
Looking back on the season, Labine said he’s proud of what they accomplished. Losing the first game of the season in Cranbrook, the Bulls bounced back with a victory in Fernie. Winning by a large margin, they won the opportunity to host the third game. Beating Cranbrook again, they won 7-5.
Later in the season Cranbrook finished close behind them, taking third at the Saratoga Cup.
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