The VSS Panthers brushed off the Pen-Hi Lakers 21-20 in Okanagan Junior Boys Rugby Union playoff action Tuesday at McNicoll Park in Penticton.
Matt Forsyth and Colton Klein scored tries in the first 10 minutes of the game with Wade Buller converting both scores to make it 14-0.
The Lakers came back with two unconverted tries to pull within four points at the half.
Pen-Hi scored first in the second half, putting the Cats down 15-14.
Kyle Evans then scored and Buller made another conversion to make it 21-15 VSS with little time remaining, but they missed the conversion by about a foot to the right of the upright.
“This was a back-and-forth game with two evenly-matched teams,” said VSS coach Tim Thorpe. “Pen-Hi is a very resilient team; there was no quit in them. Like us, they were only playing with one substitute and played hard until the final whistle.
“The game could have gone either way; it ultimately came down to kicking. Our kicker was a perfect 3-for-3 on conversions and theirs was 0-for-4.”
Meanwhile, the Fulton Maroons and Kalamalka Lakers advanced to a Thursday showdown for the Valley senior AA boys title.
The No. 1 Maroons bounced the No. 3 Okanagan Mission Huskies 19-12, while the No. 2 Lakers upended the Kelowna Christian Knights 15-5. Both Fulton and Kal get berths to the provincials.
After a strong goal-line stand by the Huskies, eighth man Ben Olson broke through for a try with a number of Maroons sitting in the sin bin.
The Maroons cushioned the lead close to the end of the half with Olson crashing in after a tap penalty with Dalton Anderson there for the support. Anderson converted to give the Maroons a 12-5 lead.
Fighting the wind, the Maroons were able to maintain the pressure on the Huskies, keeping them hemmed in their own end.
Anderson took a nice pass from Kyle Richardson and broke through for a try to extend the lead, with an additional convert to boot.
The Okanagan Mission centres took the ball at pace and scampered through the Fulton defence to close the gap to 19-12.
“OKM pressured again but the backline defence with Jordan Mooney, at fullback, and Nick Kelsey, at wing, were able to hold their ground,” said Fulton coach Rick Smith. “The forwards on both sides of the ball played extremely well in this game as most of the ball was handled in the middle of the field.”
Kal won its semifinal with a great effort from their backs, in particular Keenan Jespersen, Hayden Jones and Patrick Schindler. The forwards were effective with securing good possession from the tackle breakdown and giving the backs a chance to attack.
“The forwards did their job; they were not fancy but they are not paid the big bucks to be fancy,” said Kal coach Ian Busfield.
“Their work was responsible for scrum-half Mike Finn to have his best game of the year. Junior call-up Austin Westgarde was a very strong presence for us; he brings a lot of enthusiasm to the field and has earned his starting position on the senior team.”
The Lakers have the luxury of a full roster heading into the provincials. Starting winger Paul Kozin and flanker Troy Shumacher have returned from prolonged absences, as have Jashan Jhajj and Aaron Green.
“Our depth helped us earlier in the year when we were short players. New players like Tyler Yawney and Kevin Pontious stepped up and filled the void. Now we have a depth of players that have game experience and can fit into any game situation needed.”