The Vernon Jackals rugby team came agonizingly close to a first ever B.C. Div. 3 Saratoga Cup triumph, but fell to the host Rocky Mountain Rogues, 31-10 in the final Sunday, Aug. 27.
The Jackals, who won the Okanagan Rugby Union championship for the eighth consecutive season, were looking to win the provincial Saratoga title, which is contested by men’s rugby teams from across the Interior, Kootenay and Northern regions of B.C.
The four-team Saratoga championship was hosted in Cranbrook Saturday, Aug. 26 and Sunday, Aug. 27.
Vernon’s first matchup in the semifinals was a battle against the Elk Valley Bulls of Fernie. Vernon started quickly with two early tries to set the pace, before the Bulls responded with a classy try in the far corner.
The Bulls, in the second half, nabbed an early try to put the pressure on. However, the Jackals rallied with two further tries and controlled the remainder of the game to win, 33-14 and advance to the final.
“We came into the 2023 Saratoga Cup with some confidence after last year’s game against Elk Valley (41-0 win in bronze medal game),” said Jackals player Lewis McKnight. “We quickly realized it was going to be a big battle. We were very impressed with the Bulls and their persistence, but I’m glad that our boys rallied and kept competing for the win.”
After a 43-10 drubbing from the two-time defending champion Rogues against the Terrace Northmen in the other semifinal, the Jackals were matched up in the final against the Rogues, to stop an impeding three-peat.
Sunday’s match started with two quick tries from Rocky Mountain, as they opened up a sizeable 24-3 halftime lead.
The Jackals deservedly got on the score sheet following hard work from a blocked kick, but the Rogues would bite right back to punctuate the 31-10 victory.
“Lots of respect for Vernon, they have a great young club and they’ll be another big threat next year,” said Pete Dove of the Rogues. “BC Rugby is very strong in the Kootenays, the Interior and the North!”
Terrace beat Elk Valley, 28-26 in the third place game.