Capilano women will play in first ever Canadian Rugby Club Championship tournament

Caps looking to claim a piece of national history following thrilling win at provincials

The Capilano Rugby Club’s premier women’s team will try to push their way into the history books next month as they take part in the first ever Canadian Rugby Club Championship tournament for women.

The tournament will feature four teams from across Canada competing in a championship bracket Aug. 2-4 at Fletcher’s Field in Markham, Ont. The Caps are excited about getting a shot at becoming the first women’s team to carve its name onto the championship trophy.

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“It’s quite an honour,” said Capilano co-captain Melissa Robinson. “I think we’re all really excited to represent our province and kind of show what B.C. rugby is made of.”

The tournament was held last year for men’s teams at Capilano’s Klahanie Park, with UBCOB Ravens claiming the title. This year the women get their shot, and Capilano will be there after booking their spot with a win over Victoria’s Westshore Valkyries in a thrilling provincial final held in May at Burnaby Lake Sports Complex West. Capilano came in as underdogs against the top-ranked Valkyries, the two-time defending provincial champs, but showed from the start that they were ready to play, racing out to a 17-0 lead in the final.

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Capilano's Demi Stamatakis makes a play with a tackler in tow during a match against Westshore earlier this season. photo Kevin Hill, North Shore News

It all looked to be unravelling, however, as Westshore stormed back to take a 19-17 lead halfway through the second half. A long kick – estimated at 30 metres – from Macy Munson gave the lead back to Capilano by one point, and from there all the North Shore squad needed to do was hold their opponents off the board. It was easier said than done, however, as the Caps racked up two yellow cards in the late-game scramble, forcing them to defend for the last five minutes playing 13 players against 15.

“It was probably the most exciting game of rugby I’ve ever been a part of,” said Robinson. “We worked together as a team. Westshore has traditionally had a lot of all-stars. We had some very talented players, but we managed to work together and didn’t just rely on one or two people to do everything for us.”

The whistle finally sounded to end the game, giving Capilano a 20-19 win. The next few moments were “a blur,” said Robinson. “We managed to stick it out and hold them, which I think really showed the grit of our team.”

The win gave them the provincial title, but Capilano didn’t immediately know that it came with a national bonus as well. The team apparently didn’t get the memo that the provincial champion would get to represent the province at the new national tournament.

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Capilano's Mikiela Nelson takes a hit in a game against Westshore earlier this season. photo Kevin Hill, North Shore News

“The organizers had been emailing our former head coach, who wasn’t working with our team and who hadn’t really passed along the information,” said Robinson with a laugh. “We had no idea. It was kind of a nice surprise a couple of weeks later.”

That was when they finally got the message that they qualified for the Canadian Rugby Club Championship. The late notice meant that players had to cancel some summertime vacation plans, but that was a small price to pay for getting the chance to make a big mark for the club.

“It’s such an exciting opportunity that almost everyone has managed to change their plans and make sure that we can get on a good training schedule and be ready to play,” said Robinson. The team will be missing one starter and a couple of bench players for the tournament. They were given the opportunity to add players from other B.C. clubs, but instead chose to fill those spots with players from Capilano’s second team.

“That’s never really been our style,” Robinson said about recruiting players from other clubs. “Win or lose, we wanted to be Capilanos.”

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Karina Christiansen takes some punishment as she makes a run. Christiansen, a personal trainer, will be offering a group workout as part of a fundraising campaign for the Capilano team as the get ready for the Canadian Rugby Club Championship tournament. photo Kevin Hill, North Shore News

They will get a boost from former national team player Andrea Burk, who now lives in Toronto and will be able to play for Capilano at the championship.

There will be interesting dynamics at play at the tournament, as all the other teams are in-season right now and will come in to the event in shape and game ready. The Caps might be a bit rusty, but they should also have a fully healthy squad free from the nagging injuries faced by teams that are in-season right now. Robinson said she fully expects the Caps to be ready to go on game day.

“Our goal is absolutely to win it, and to have a good time doing it,” she said. “I think we have a team that can seriously compete this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if we were able to win it all.”

Before they get there, however, the team is looking for a little help with funding. The players have received some financial backing from the B.C. Rugby Union and the Canadian Rugby Foundation, but they still are staring at a bill of around $10,000, which translates to about $400 per player. They’re hoping they won’t have to pay that out-of-pocket, however, and have arranged for a couple of fundraisers. Next Wednesday, July 17, the team will host a one-hour circuit-style workout led by personal trainer and Capilano player Karina Christiansen. The workout begins at 7 p.m. at Klahanie Park with a cost of $20, and is open to anyone.

If group workouts aren’t your style, the club will also host a fundraising party on July 20 and will also be selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

“There’s a little bit of something for everyone,” said Robinson with a laugh. The club also has a gofundme campaign going, for those who just want to chip in some money without the sweat or sweets.

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