Vikes dethrone Thunderbirds in CUMRC gold medal game

The Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship (CUMRC) gold medal game didn’t disappoint, as we had to wait until the very last play to declare a winner. The University of Victoria Vikes finally won the battle 21-20.

The University of British Columbia Thunderbirds entered the contest as two-time CUMRC defending champions, and the first-ranked team of the tournament. The Vikes and Thunderbirds knew each other well, as the teams battle often in British Columbia.

The game started well for the Thunderbirds, as they scored two tries and 12 points in the first 15 minutes. However, the Vikes answered with 14 points in four minutes at the end of the first half to take the lead at halftime.

Thunderbirds head coach Curry Hitchborn said at halftime, he told his players they needed to settle down.

“They needed to relax,” Hitchborn said. “I told them the Vikes were there to play, and were going to test us. [They had] to stick to what they knew, keep it simple and not make it hard on ourselves. We did the complete opposite at times.”

The second half offered tight plays from start to finish. After the Thunderbirds scored three points on a penalty kick, teams exchanged tries.

At 21-20 Vikes in additional time, the Thunderbirds had the game’s destiny in their hands. They scored a try in additional time and had to convert for two points. A successful kick meant a win, and missed one meant a Vikes victory.

Vikes head coach Doug Tate said it’s good his team didn’t panic when they were down by 12 points.

“I think we closed the space, Tate said. “They are big runners, so if you get them off their feet, [it helps]. When we had chances to score, we did it. We didn’t give them many chances, as we were very aggressive defensively. We got a few bounces our way today, as they were close [to tying] the game.”

Tate said that being champions feels good for the Vikes. He said that victory feels more special than usual because of the history between the teams.

“I think we didn’t beat them in five years. Some of these guys have been with the Vikes for four or five years, and had never won against the Thunderbirds. For them, to beat that team in the CUMRC final is pretty special.”

On his side, Hitchborn gave a lot of credit to the Vikes. He said they came to play, and offered a massive effort.

“That was the best I’ve ever seen them play in years,” Hitchborn said. “They were everything a championship team needed to be. We play each other so often. It’s really great to see guys on both sides rise to the occasion like they did. It was a brilliant game for them.”

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