Spartans have leg up on Mustangs
Rugby: STS' Ryan Verburg kicks for 20 points in win over Highwood
Wednesday, Apr 19, 2017 06:00 am
A perennial rugby powerhouse in the midst of a rebuilding year has found a way to get a leg up on their opposition.
That would be the leg belonging to Strathcona-Tweedsmuir Spartan Ryan Verburg.
Verburg kicked four converts and four penalty kicks in contributing 20 points to the Spartans’ 40-7 victory over the Highwood Mustangs Thursday in High River.
“I probably won’t have another game like this for the rest of the year,” said Verburg who also plays fly-half for the Spartans.
The match was both teams’ first game in the Big Sky Union this season.
The Spartans are coming off a Tier III provincial bronze medal in 2016 after winning the Tier II title the year before.
The Grade 12 Verburg is excited about this squad despite it being a Grade 10 and 11 laden team.
“I feel like we can still go all the way this year,” said the Priddis area resident. “We have some big kids this year and we also have some speed kids.”
These are the new-look Spartans.
While they still play an east-west passing game, they are also bulldozing more up-field this season.
That suits DeWinton area’s Garrett Sten just fine.
“We have quite a bit of size this year,” said Sten, a six-foot-four, 230-pound Grade 10 student. “Just running into the line headfirst is good for us.”
Sten had a pair of trys in the victory — including the Spartans’ first of the season.
After moving the ball methodically down the field, Sten, a lock, scored when on a penalty he tapped the ball to himself and ran it in from about 12 yards out to give STS the early lead.
There’s nothing like an early try to quash some rookie nerves.
“This is our first game of the season and we have had only two practices — being a Grade 10 student I was a bit jittery,” Sten said.
Sten might have been playing his first high school game but he’s not inexperienced. He’s a product of the Foothills Lions system.
The Spartans would take a 17-0 lead at the half on a try by Henry McArdle a penalty kick by Verburg to go along with Sten’s effort.
They would up their lead to 40-0 as Sten and Harrison Graham scored trys with Verburg adding three more penalty kicks.
The Mustangs would get on the board when speedster Nick Greer streaked down the field for a 47-yard try with 28 seconds left in the game.
Spartans coach Chris Ruskay was pleased with what he saw.
STS has had only two practices this season, as construction at the school has them behind the eight-ball in the early going.
“We are larger than we usually are so we went the direct route tonight,” Ruskay said. “It’s early and we want to go to what is our game (east-west, lateral play) but the straight line was working tonight.”
The Spartans are a work in progress, but Ruskay has plenty to work with.
“I came in today thinking we were going to do some rebuilding, but it was a great start,” Ruskay said. “We have a lot to learn as a team, but we have a lot to work with.”
Highwood coach Dave Roberts said STS is a good, balanced side.
“STS do the basics well, and have an intensity in their play that we seem to have difficulty matching,” he said. “Experience plays a large part. We have athletic ability, but we do not have really deep rugby know how across the board. We just lack the depth of those teams that have players in the game six to eight years.”
In other Big Sky Boys Rugby Union action on April 12 the Foothills Falcons made their trek to Strathmore worthwhile, downing the Spartans 40-0.
The Holy Trinity Academy Knights were downed 12-7 by Bow Valley/Cochrane. The West Island College Wolves got by Oilfields 37-0 in Black Diamond.
There is limited local Big Sky action next week due to the Easter break. The lone game is WIC against the STS Spartans at STS on Thursday, 5 p.m.