A pair of rugby players from Maple Ridge went head-to-head on two separate B.C. teams for the Western Canadian Rugby Championship title this past weekend.
More than 300 athletes took part in the tournament that saw teams from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Kianna Steel on team B.C. U15 and Soleil Brooks on team B.C. U16 represented Maple Ridge.
The U16 girls took the championship 20-0.
According to the B.C. Rugby website, the B.C. U16 girls XV were favourites going into the tournament. They scored more than 100 points in their first two games alone.
And, the website read, the B.C. U15 girls conceded only three tries in their opening four matches.
Brooks, captain of the U16 girls team, said it is not uncommon for two B.C. teams to be in the finals together because the province has one of the largest girls rugby programs in the country.
“I was very lucky to captain a group of very, very talented girls,” said Brooks.
“The U15 side was very talented as well. They put up a fight against us and really gave us a run for our money,” she added.
This was the first time Brooks represented B.C. in the 15s competition. The team was announced July 16 following the development camp that ran July 9 to 13. Brooks was also part of the Elite Sevens program this winter that travelled to Las Vegas and she played in the Vancouver Sevens for team B.C. as well.
The difference between the two variations of rugby is the seven-aside variation is a lot faster paced games and the games are a lot shorter with two seven minute halves.
The 15-aside game, depending on the variation, is usually two 30 minutes halves and it’s more strategic.
“You have a lot more thinking to do and it’s where you see a lot of your bigger players come in,” said Brooks.
Brooks gave a nod to Madi Makara and Lucie Romeo of Abbotsford for their speed and pace and knowledge of the game.
“Just heads-up players, knowing where the play is, really just keeping the team together and just amazing players to be around,” said Brooks.
She also showered praise on Alise Kayser, the other captain of the team, who, said Brooks, lead the team on the pitch and on the back and, “making smart plays from the number nine position and really just being amazing.”
Paris Mastin, Brooks added, really set an example of what it means to have no fear.
Brooks says the one thing that is really special about rugby, that she doesn’t see in other sports, is the camaraderie and sisterhood that she has with her teammates.
“Even after we won, the U15 team and the U16 team, because we all know each other, you give your buddies a big hug and there is no animosity towards each other,” said Brooks.
As a champion for the sport Brooks thinks that more people should get out and give it a try. She thinks that it has a bad reputation for being a brutal game.
“It’s a very big honour to be representing our town and getting out there to just show what Maple Ridge has and that we do have some good rugby players,” continued Brooks, who is heading into club season with United out of Coquitlam.
The B.C. U16 Boys Blue went undefeated in the tournament, winning the championship for the second year in a row. The U16 Boys Gold came second, followed by the B.C. U15 boys with Brady Howlett representing Ridge on the team.
The U18 Western Canadian Championships take place Aug. 1-4 in Regina, SK, where four B.C. teams will be taking part.