The Ballenas Whalers senior boys rugby team had a strong season finishing second at a tournament in Victoria. — File photo

Ballenas Whalers net second in rugby sevens playoffs

Coach calls effort ‘a great experience’

The Ballenas Whalers senior boys sevens rugby team is beaming with pride after achieving a hard-earned second-place finish at the 2019 Vancouver Island Senior Boys Tier 2 Playoffs in Victoria

The Whalers, the only North Island team in the tournament, took on the formidable Esquimalt High in the final, who are the current 7’s Provincial Tier 2 champions. The Whalers put up a gallant fight but ended up losing 26-0.

Kevin McMillen, who coaches the Whalers along with Greg Lewis and Ray Aheuri, said it was still a great experience for the Whalers to get the chance to go up against the province’s best in their final game of the season.

“We played them tough earlier but didn’t have enough gas in the tank in our fourth game of the day and they took it to us,” said McMIllen. “They scored 26 in the first half to put it away but we held them scoreless in the second half. We struggled to maintain possession of the ball and put anything offensively all game.”

Enroute to the finals, the Whalers, who were seeded seventh, were grouped in Pool Two with Oak Bay Barbarians and Victoria High in the round robin.

The Whalers took on the second-seeded Barbarians first. They controlled the flow of the game and ended up with a comfortable 17-5 win. Tries were scored by Adrian Friesen, Louis Ballande, and Scotty Williams, who also kicked a convert.

READ ON: Ballenas Whalers girls are crazy about rugby

In their second match, the Whalers met a familiar nemesis, arch-rivals Vic High. Both sides have played against each other in tournaments in the past couple of years and developed a healthy rivalry. The game, as expected was a heated battle, and at the end of the final whistle, the score was tied 19-19.

Ben Chomolok, Williams, and Mateo Pastor each scored a try which Ballande, kicking in two converts.

The Whalers had to play Vic High again in the semifinals due to point differential. This time around, the Whalers defence played solid and shut out Vic High to win 14-0. McMillen praised Jack Giroux, who he said was a tackling phenom that got the defensive line playing with extra drive and motivation. Friesen and Pastor each scored a try with Ballande booting in a couple of coverts.

The Whalers had played exceptional rugby this season and have improved significantly, said McMillen. Along with Lewis and Aheuri, they’ve prepared them well, exposing them to solid strategies that the Whalers were able to execute in most of their games.

This was the only big tournament the Whalers were gunning for this season. The Whalers are not in any league and have been playing mostly exhibition games. The interest in the sport is growing at Ballenas especially with the girls who this year had close to 60 players come out to join the program.

“I hope that 7’s continues to grow in popularity and that we can have a North Island and Island tournament in the near future similar to high school hoops,” said McMillen, who was one of the strong advocates of the sport at the school and played a role in starting a sevens program in Ballenas four years ago.

The Whalers boys team will lose some of their key players to graduation this year. They are Williams, Zac Mosher, Damon Thompson, Kolby Jack, Ballande, Gabriele Flore, and Derian Guadarrama.

McMillen said they look forward to their continued success with their returning players next season and hope some of the graduates will continue to pursue rugby participation at the club level wherever their paths lead.

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