Bears claw back for fifth zone title

Rugby: STS Spartans settle for second in familiar Tier II battle

By: Remy Greer

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jun 04, 2014 06:00 am

Strathcona Tweedsmuir Spartan xxx yy tackles a Banff Bear during the Tier II South Central Zone final, May 31 at the Calgary Rugby Union. The Bears survived a late Spartans surge to win their fifth title in a row and move on to provincials.
Strathcona Tweedsmuir Spartan xxx yy tackles a Banff Bear during the Tier II South Central Zone final, May 31 at the Calgary Rugby Union. The Bears survived a late Spartans surge to win their fifth title in a row and move on to provincials.
Remy Greer/OWW

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New year, same result in the boys rugby Tier II South Central Zone final.

The Banff Community High School Bears extended their dynastic run to five-straight zone titles at the expense of the Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School Spartans by triumphing 25-22 in a back-and-forth thriller, Saturday at the Calgary Rugby Union.

“The coaches involved on both teams have been involved for a while, of course the players change every year, but I think the legend grows,” said Spartans head coach Chris Ruskay. “Both teams know that it’s always going to be tight coming in and know that it’s going to be a stressful game and back and forth.

“Banff just has our number.”

The Bears showed bite from the opening kick-off and built a 10-0 advantage inside 15-minutes of the first-half and added another try to take a commanding 15-0 lead.

“They scored their first try about two minutes in so we put ourselves in a hole right to begin with, but then we weathered the storm until halftime,” Ruskay said. “Then we collectively agreed that we were going to pull out all the stops and do everything we could.”

Okotokian MacLean Clark kickstarted the STS surge with a late first-half try to cut the lead to 15-5 and give the Spartans some much needed momentum heading into the break.

“That definitely helped change it going into the second half,” said Spartans scrum-half Stephen Powell on the try. “We came out at the start of the game expecting it to be easier than it was and with some individual efforts, but we played together as a team and that’s what brought us back into it.”

The Spartans kept on the attack after the break and found itself up 17-15 with 10 minutes left in the contest on a pair of trys to kick-off the second half, including a score from High River’s Wyatt Hansen.

Banff would quickly score twice to regain the lead at 25-17 before Spartan Austin Distefano beat the buzzer with a brilliant individual effort to the try zone in the dying moments of the contest as he retrieved his own kick for five-points.

A nervous finish for Banff’s fifth consecutive zone championship.

“We came out and played strong out of the gate. (Strathcona) is a hell of a good team and I’d be lying if I said I was not nervous when they took the 17-15 lead and we lost our fly half,” said Banff head coach Ian Higginbottom. “But we helped our forwards control the ball, battled for every inch and kept playing Banff rugby.”

The Bears, 2011 provincial champions, will be looking to re-claim top-spot in Alberta when the provincials hit Calgary this week.

The 2014 Rugby Provincial Championship goes June 6-7 at the Calgary Rugby Union. For the full list of schedules and results go to asaa.ca

rgreer@okotoks.greatwest.ca


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