Greg Sabatino photosBilly Parker (carrying ball) gives a straight arm to a Penticton player while he moves up the field in a four-try win over Penticton in the semifinal of the Stampede Rugby Tournament.

Greg Sabatino photosBilly Parker (carrying ball) gives a straight arm to a Penticton player while he moves up the field in a four-try win over Penticton in the semifinal of the Stampede Rugby Tournament.

Rustlers social champs at Stampede Rugby

The Williams Lake Rustlers are this year's social champs of the Stampede Rugby Tournament.

The Williams Lake Rustlers are this year’s social champions of the annual Williams Lake Stampede Rugby Tournament.

“That puts a new cattle skull up on the wall in the clubhouse so that’s a big accomplishment — something that I’ve been hoping to do since I started as a coach with the club three years ago,” said head coach Braden McCallum.

“It’s not the competitive championship so the players don’t get belt buckles but the players do get hoodies and putting the skull up is a big deal.”

McCallum said the team decided to enter the social division this year to give some of the younger players who’ve recently joined the Rustlers an opportunity to get some playing time and to focus on running the tournament, while also taking the pressure off hosting such a large event.

The team opened its tournament with a team from Vancouver Island, falling to them 27-22.

Next, the Rustlers faced off against Langley and brought home a 29-20 win, which landed them in second place in their pool.

In the semifinal the Rustlers played Penticton, winning by four tries.

“We really came to play against Penticton,” McCallum said.

In the final, the Rustlers were matched up against Simon Fraser University, where they won 19-14 in a tight contest.

“Some of our young guys were big standouts,” McCallum said.

“But it was really a collective effort by our younger members. It wasn’t the guys that have been there for 10-plus years. It was the younger guys that gave us the numbers we needed and rose to the occasion playing in a men’s tournament.

“It gave them an opportunity to play competitive rugby that was in their scope and skill level and ability, but it also gave them a chance to watch the competitive side. They got to play some good-quality rugby and watch some good-quality rugby.”

He added the tournament, as a whole, was one of the best attended the city has seen in the past 10 years with 10 women’s teams playing sevens rugby, six social teams in the men’s division and six competitive teams in the men’s division.

Winning the competitive division was a team called Average Joes, which was put together by both Williams Lake’s Riley Ilnicki and Nathan Stewart.

“They put together a good collection from different clubs of friends and guys they’ve played with at the university level and provincial level,” McCallum said. “We had six players on the Average Joes who would have played for us but wanted to play in the competitive division.”

Also of note was Williams Lake’s Wes Black, who was a workhorse over the weekend playing for at least seven different teams when clubs needed a sub.

“He was the antithesis of what a social rugby tournament is all about,” McCallum said.

“And it was great to have a Williams Lake contingent winning the buckle this year. They played Romas who we lost to last year so it was great for some of those guys to win it with them.”

On the girls’ side, the Williams Lake Hustlers fell in the semifinal to end their tournament.

The Capilanos wound up winning the women’s division, beating Abbotsford, who had gone previously undefeated in the tournament.

“It was an excellent tournament,” McCallum said.

“I want to thank everyone that attended. Lots of volunteers helped out from the club community and the community and, personally, a thank you to president Rodger Stewart and treasurer Todd Pritchard for helping organize the event, and Brendon Pritchard and Alex Crook did all the public relations. They attracted and promoted and stayed in touch with everyone getting the sponsorship, hoodies and things like that, while Rodger and Todd on the day took lead and ran the referees so the four of them were incredible.”

Williams Lake Tribune