Reece Milham of the Vernon Jackals carries the ball through three Penticton Harlequins in Okanagan Rugby Union play Saturday at Grahame Park. (Tobias Fredericksen/Morning Star)

Jackals lock up penthouse suite

With Okanagan Rugby Union win over Penticton Harlequins

Rugby was in full swing on Saturday as Vernon welcomed four visiting teams in a mini Okanagan Rugby Union tournament Saturday at Grahame Park.

Things kicked off with Kamloops women’s team bringing down a sevens squad to give the Lady Jackals their first real action on the season.

Despite some tenacious tackling from rookie Kelly Cooper and captain Sydney Hofer in Game 1, the polish of the Division 1 Kamloops side quickly became a factor as they jumped to an early lead and never relinquished control.

After a commanding first period, the Lady Jackals rebounded nicely and, led by veterans Kara Wilhelms and Kylie Dillon, shored up their defence and retained some ball for multiple phases.

The second game saw the teams split squads which led to a back and forth game with Vernon standouts Natasha Brooks and Emily Konkin getting their first scores of the season.

In men’s league action, the defending champion Vernon Jackals locked up first place with a 27-17 win over No. 2 seeded Penticton Harlequins.

“Pen always play us hard, it’s never an easy or pretty game when our teams meet,” said Vernon captain Bryan Cragg. “The Harlequins came out of the gates hitting hard and seemed determined to knock us off. Having not seen much of a challenge in season play, we took a while to respond to the early energy of the Harlequins. We were down by two scores before we finally regained composure and the back line played their game-plan, and with tries by Lewis McKnight, on a beauty of a chip and chase, and Travis Beck, powering his way through, we went into half with a slim lead.”

The second half saw Penticton hitting hard and Vernon trading blows and tries, recording three scores by standoff Kyle Richardson, Cragg and rookie Corey Suastegui. The Jackals improved to 5-0.

“If this game was any indication for playoffs, it could be another classic if we meet them in the finals for the third straight year,” said Cragg.

The largest margin of victory in the last two finals was five points. The Jackals face the upstart fourth-place Kelowna Cows Saturday, June 16 in the semifinals.

The Salmon Arm Manthers grounded the Cows by 15 points in other Saturday Union action.

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