Aaron Chetwynd takes a pass from Celtic Barbarians teammate and fellow Rupertite Atyah Maher during action in the Kamloops Sevens Tournament. (Submitted photo)

Aaron Chetwynd takes a pass from Celtic Barbarians teammate and fellow Rupertite Atyah Maher during action in the Kamloops Sevens Tournament. (Submitted photo)

Rainmakers rugby makes the trip to Kamloops for Sevens tournament

Competition is the largest of its kind in the country

The Charles Hays Rainmakers rugby squad took a successful tour south last month to take part in the Kamloops Sevens Tournament over the Thanksgiving long weekend — a trip that very nearly failed to get off the ground.

Set for a Thursday departure, the team was notified on Wednesday night that their bus driver would be unable to make the trip. That’s when a familiar benefactor of the team once again stepped up to lend his support.

Duncan Ryan, a former Rainmaker rugby player himself, has made donations to the team during the year, citing the positive impact it had on his life during his high school days. While the support had been of a financial nature up until this point — for which he was presented with a special jersey at the Charles Hays rugby award night back in June — this time Ryan was able to take the skills from his job at his trucking company and put them to use steering the team bus.

“Without him we would have been dead in the water,” Andy Enns, coach of the Rainmakers rugby squad, said. “It was quite fortunate that Duncan was able to free up his schedule and drive us, otherwise I’m not sure what we would have done.”

The Charles Hays Rainmakers made the long trip to Kamloops – thanks in part to a timely save by their fill-in bus driver Duncan Ryan – to play in the Kamloops Sevens Tournament. (Submitted photo)

With a means of transportation secured, the team was off to Kamloops. Following a few friendly games in Williams Lake against local high schools, the team arrived at the tournament. Dozens of teams had gathered from around B.C. and Alberta for the high profile competition, the biggest sevens tournament in Canada.

Once on site, the Rainmakers split into different squads based on age. Prince Rupert fielded a full team in the U17 divisions, and paired up with players from Williams Lake to round out their U15 squad. With not enough players for a girls team, Prince Rupert standout Dennay Yaroshuk joined the Prince George side in the U16 division. Three players also suited up for the U19 team, bringing the total Rupert contingent to 24 players at the tournament.

SEE MORE: WATCH: Canada’s national rugby team surprise Rainmakers with a special message from Japan

The Rupert sides hit the ground running on Saturday morning, with the U15 boys facing Surrey side Bayside Sharks in their opening match. The combined team did well to score tries and get on the board, but ultimately ended up falling 32-12. Their afternoon tilt was against the historic powerhouse James Bay. The Victoria side would take the game 39-0, going on to win the division with a perfect 6-0 record.

Rupert’s U15 players had three more games on Sunday, starting with a 32-0 loss to the St. Albert Rugby Football Club out of Alberta. The squad got themselves back on the board in a 29-5 loss to United Rugby Club from metro Vancouver, and ended on a high note with a big win over United in the fifth place game by three tries. Enns pointed to Ben Visser for his contributions to the team over their five games, noting his speed in allowing the team to put tries on the board.

Atyah Maher looks to set up a play after securing the ball out of a scrum. Maher was one of three Prince Rupert players to suit up for the North American select Celtic Barbarians rugby squad at the Kamloops Sevens Tournament in October. (Jason Scherr submitted photo)

On the U17 side, Prince Rupert played a flurry of games on the first day, starting with a 29-0 loss to eventual winners Bayside. They kept things closer against the Kamloops Raiders, dropping the game 26-7, but found themselves in tough in the final match of the day against St. Albert in a 50-10 loss.

Rupert started Sunday’s action with a close affair against Williams Lake, but saw a few opportunities go the other way as they fell 19-7. Their final game against the Kootenays was a 15-0 loss. Enns especially credited Owen Vick, Jake Morse, Aspen Clouthier and Kaden Yaroshuk for their efforts.

“There was good play by many of the young boys,” Enns said, pointing to the experience gained on the trip rather than the results as his biggest takeaway. “This is basically their first experience with real contact. To go in after one month of training and hang against established squads from the lower mainland was very impressive. I couldn’t ask for a harder working group of kids.”

Prince Rupert’s Dennay Yaroshuk suited up for Prince George during the Kamloops Sevens Tournament. (Submitted photo)

Dennay Yaroshuk’s Prince George side started their tournament with a close 22-15 loss to Abbotsford, but responded with a 34-10 thumping of Burnaby Lake later in the day. Saturday closed out with a 29-10 loss to the Canucks Rugby Club. Sunday saw Prince George just edged out by Bayside 15-10 before the girls closed their tournament with a 20-5 defeat to Capilano. Yaroshuk and Prince George would finish eighth out of 12 teams overall.

READ MORE: No stopping the Yaroshuk siblings

Dennay Yaroshuk with her Prince George teammates. (Submitted photo)

One of the biggest highlights of the trip came via the three Rupert players who suited up in the U19 division. It was a special moment before they even took the field, as Aaron Chetwynd, Mason Dileta and Maher Atyah donned the jersey of the prestigious Celtic Barbarians rugby squad for the first time. A rugby club that selects the best players from around North America, the Barbarians have participated in international tournaments around the world, including the Tropical Sevens in Orlando and the Dubai Sevens. Prince Rupert has seen its fair share of players pass through the Barbarians ranks, including Ryan and Owen Vick, Jason Rioux, Cody Schaeffer and Hannah Scherr.

Mason Dileta makes a tackle while playing for the Celtic Barbarians in the Kamloops Sevens Tournament. (Submitted photo)

Prince Rupert’s Mason Dileta, Atyah Maher and Aaron Chetwynd made their debuts for the Celtic Barbarians at the Kamloops Sevens Tournament. They received instruction from Barbarians coaches Paul White (left) and Cam Wilton. (Submitted photo)

It was a tough first day for the select squad as they dropped games to the Clansmen out of Edmonton 43-0 and the eventual champion Thompson/Okanagan Rugby Alliance 34-7. Sunday was a banner day for the squad though, as they downed St. Alberts 21-19 before running over the Kamloops Raiders 24-0.

Cam Wilton, a coach with the Barbarians, expressed his pleasure with the play of Rupert’s three new additions to the squad, again noting the ability of a town of Prince Rupert’s size to produce international quality athletes. To help recognize the steps Wilton has taken to give Rupert’s players a chance over the years — a chance that is often not afforded to small towns — he was made an honourary member of the Prince Rupert Seamen rugby club following the match.

The Prince Rupert Seamen made Barbarians coach Cam Wilton an honourary member of the team during the weekend for his work to give Prince Rupert athletes a chance to show their skills on the international stage. Here Wilton (left) is presented a Seamen jersey by Rainmakers coach and Seamen player Andy Enns. (Submitted photo)

Alex Kurial | Sports Reporter
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