The Vernon Jackals will shoot for a three-peat when they face the Penticton Harlequins in the Okanagan Rugby Union final Saturday, July 7 at Grahame Park.
The Jackals reached the championship game for the third-straight year by crushing the Kelowna Cows 51-5 in the semifinals Saturday at JL Jackson Secondary in Salmon Arm.
The first-year Cows were coming off a 77-point showing against the Salmon Arm Manthers, but couldn’t contain the highly physical Jackals. Vernon was not taking the Cows lightly.
“Nobody wants to be that team that could have been great but shoots themselves in the foot,” said Vernon coach Clay Coles, who all week in practice preached about putting in the work and noting Kelowna’s desire to pull an upset.”
The coach’s hounding seemed to have stuck as the Jackals came out hot right from kickoff and controlled play early by spending much of the opening 10 minutes inside the Cows’ 22-meter line.
“If not for some poor hands in our backline, it should have 15-0 early,” said Coles.
Although it took some time to get on the scoreboard, once Kyle Richardson crossed the goal line for Vernon, the tries began to come quickly and in bunches. Vernon’s forwards dominated rucks and the Jackals were able to retain possession consistently as they marched downfield which led to tries by Kevin Stecyk, Wade Buller, Lucas Hofer and rookie 18-year-old standout Christian Harpe, who collected his first score of the season.
With the big men grinding the Cows, it opened holes late for Satchel McDermid and Kal Sports Bar Man of the Match Josh Eyford, who was also a force on defence, to seal the deal.
The Jackals are the top seed in the playoffs and will meet a familiar opponent in the Harlequins.
“This season, we’ve had their number but the last three years (finals) they have come out hard; every one has been decided by less than a score so it’s going to be a close fight,” Vernon said captain Bryan Cragg.
The Jackals stopped the Harlequins 37-10 and 27-17 in regular-season tilts this year.
A playoff game for third place is scheduled for July 7 between Salmon Arm and Kelowna for 11 a.m. with the final set for 1:30 p.m. There may be a ladies exhibition at 12:30 p.m.