Stephen Pacaro of the Vernon Jackals prepares to handle a pass in the Saratoga Cup in Penticton (Mark Brett/Black Press)

Northmen hold off Jackals

The Terrace Northmen grounded the Vernon Jackals 34-14 in the Saratoga Cup rugby final in Penticton

The defending champion Terrace Northmen dispatched the Vernon Jackals 34-14 in the Saratoga Cup provincial men’s rugby final Sunday at Kings Park in Penticton.

The Saratoga Cup is contested by the best independent clubs who play in Northern B.C., Okanagan and the Interior.

The Northmen showed why they took home the trophy, and with strong backline play, blew past the Jackals who couldn’t muster much in the way of defence.

Coach Grant Kissling, a Kiwi immigrant, made some personnel changes in the Vernon backline to hopefully plug some holes exploited in the last meeting, a Northmen win on Saturday. Kissling’s gamble seemed to pay off early as Vernon had much of the possession and all the momentum in the early going only to be turned away at the goal line time after time and went into the half down by just a try.

The Northmen eventually wore the Jackals down and opened up some running lanes and took the back-to-back championship.

Said Kissling: “We played better today, we had our chances to take control of things and that’s all you can really hope for. We just need to capitalize next time.”

The Jackals upended Elk Valley, who have won Saratoga twice in recent history, 24-10 Saturday afternoon to reach the final.

The Jackals came out with a sense of urgency and, pushed by aggressive forward play led by vets Don Deane and captain Adam Morad, controlled the ball and were marched down the field repeatedly.

For the first time the annual tournament also consisted of a women’s 7’s division which included Vernon, Merritt, Elk Valley and a Barbarians team made of players from around the province. Day 1 was a round-robin style.

The Vernon Lady Jackals started things off against a Merritt team hungry for their first rugby action of the season. The slow starting Lady Jackals got down quickly and could not recover dropping the first game of the day 27-5.

The day didn’t exactly get easier for the ladies as both the Barbarians and the Elk Valley teams were able to down the Jackals and put them 0-3.

Acting coach Laura Hopkins did some pre-game tinkering Sunday and changed up the strategy and right away things on the field seemed to click despite a 22-15 loss to Elk Valley.

Winger Sydney Hofer moved inside and anchored things on numerous defensive stands in the back and forth game.

“These girls came so far and never had an ounce of quit in them; I couldn’t be prouder” said Hopkins, of the girls’ effort all season long.