© Guardian photo by Nigel Armstrong
James Mallard goes down with the ball during a practice with the P.E.I. Mudmen rugby club Thursday in Charlottetown.
Fans will be able to get a major rugby fix at the 2014 Eastern Canadian rugby championships today through Sunday in Charlottetown.
That’s because there are 48 games over three days, every hour on the hour, beginning today, at 9 a.m., at Colonel Gray High School and Simmons fields featuring P.E.I.’s under-16 male and under-20 female squads in action.
The under-16 men face Newfoundland and Labrador and the U-20 women tangle with Nova Scotia. Games are at Colonel Gray and Simmons, respectively.
Those are just two of the 19 men’s and women’s teams from Eastern Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces scattered over five divisions.
Charlottetown’s Connor Moerike is ready to go and hopes his P.E.I. under-18 men’s squad is, too. It’s in a division with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.
“(I’m) a little bit (nervous). The team hasn’t been together long and hasn’t played many games, but we’ve been practising a lot and that should help. The other teams will be good. We’ll compete for sure,” said Moerike, a Grade 12 student at Colonel Gray. “We can definitely finish first if we play well. We beat New Brunswick once. Nova Scotia won’t be extremely (strong). Newfoundland I don’t know much about, but I know their program is good.”
The event is a product of the P.E.I. Rugby Union (PEIRU) and sanctioned by Rugby Canada.
Eastern Ontario, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec arrived Thursday. New Brunswick is expected in early today. Games are 40 minutes, split into two 20-minute periods, cut down from the usual 45-minute half.
Planning started in early April and things are running smoothly, said tournament co-ordinator Megan Wilson.
“There are so many pieces that have to come together. It’s getting there. We don’t think there’s anything missing. We want to make sure this one of the best tournaments . . . and a great experience and teams will want to come back in the future,” said Wilson, a former UPEI Panthers women’s rugby player. “It will be a high level of rugby, the best of the best in the Atlantic provinces, and high intensity with 40-minute games instead of an hour and a half teams will be working hard”
As for the teams, many on this side of the country feature Atlantic University Sport all-stars from powerhouse female collegiate programs like St. F.X.
And some players from the Hunter’s Ale House Mudmen senior men’s rugby club are involved as seven have been tapped for the senior men’s exhibition matchup between the New Brunswick Black Spruce and the Nova Scotia Keltic on Saturday, at 5:45 p.m., at Simmons.
Twins Adam and Aaron Fitzpatrick, and Morgan Campbell, all from Montague, are slated to play for the Keltic, while Summerside natives Alex Forrest and Geoff Kowalski, and Charlottetown’s Sean Doyle and James Mallard will lace up for the Black Spruce.
“I’m looking forward to it. So excited. Can’t wait to play,” said Doyle, a 19-year-old Mudmen forward. “I don’t think size will be a big deal where it’s under-23, but it will be a faster pace, cleaner, less mistakes, less stoppages.”
Neither Doyle nor Mallard have practised with the Black Spruce, so the learning curve will be steep and quick.
It won’t be easy, said Mallard, a Mudmen back fielder, but rugby is rugby and some schemes and players will be familiar.
“It shouldn’t be hard to adapt where I’m in the backfield. I’ve played with and against some of the guys on the team through provincials and other things. But it will be a quicker game then we’re used to,” said Mallard.
P.E.I. is fielding teams in the under-18 women, under-20 and senior women’s divisions, and the under-16 and under-18 men’s divisions.
The senior women, coached by Ryan Lloyd of the Mudmen, are facing the first real games of the squad's career. It’s scrimmaged with the P.E.I. under-20 women’s team, but that’s nothing like a game situation.
Still, Lloyd, who is also the PEIRU summer co-ordinator, has set the team’s sights high despite the lack of contests.
“The first day (against N.L. and N.B.) we’re going into that looking for two wins. Nova Scotia in the past has been head and shoulders above the other teams in Atlantic Canada. We must get those two first game to get to the final,” said Lloyd, adding there’s not much wriggle room for team chemistry to sprout. “We’re hoping that happens pretty quickly. There’s not a lot of time. We’ll give them that first mistake or two. After that, it’s going to cost us."
It made more difficult, too, by the injury bug that’s shelved Argyle Shore’s Jean Baker, an all-Canadian at Saint Mary's University, SMU teammate and Atlantic University Sport all-star Jorie Rose from Souris, Cornwall native Angelina MacLellan of St. F.X., and backfielder Katherine Drake of Stratford.
“Obviously we have some holes to fill, but we think we’ve filled them given the circumstances,” said Lloyd.
Mike Shelly, national men’s team scrum coach, will give a free men’s clinic Saturday, at 4 p.m., at Co-op Field. Admission to the tournament is also free.
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Schedule for the 2014 Eastern Canadian rugby championships today through Sunday in Charlottetown:
Under-18 - P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Eastern Ontario
Under-20 - P.E.I., Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador
Senior - P.E.I., Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick
Under-16 - P.E.I., New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador
Under-18 - P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador
Rugby Canada Super League
New Brunswick Black Spruce, Nova Scotia Keltic
(at Colonel Gray Field)
9 a.m., P.E.I. vs N.L., U-16 male
10 a.m., P.E.I. vs. N.L., U-18 male
11 a.m., N.S. vs. N.B., U-18 male
Noon, N.B. vs. N.L., U-16 male
1 p.m., P.E.I. vs. N.L., senior women
2 p.m., P.E.I. vs. N.B., U-18 male
3 p.m., P.E.I. vs. N.B., U-18 female
4 p.m., N.S. vs. Eastern Ontario, U-18 female
5 p.m., N.L. vs. N.S., senior women
(at Simmons Field)
9 a.m., P.E.I. vs. N.S., U-20 female
10 a.m., N.S. vs. Quebec, U-18 women
11 a.m., Eastern Ontario vs. N.B., U-18 female
Noon, N.S. vs. N.L., U-20 female
1 p.m., N.S. vs. N.B., senior women
2 p.m., N.L. vs. N.S., U-18 male
3 p.m., P.E.I. vs. N.L., U-20 female
4 p.m., P.E.I. vs. N.B., senior women
5 p.m., N.B. vs. P.E.I., U-16 male
6 p.m., Quebec vs. P.E.I., U-18 women
(at Colonel Gray)
9 a.m., P.E.I. vs. N.L., U-16 male
10 a.m., Quebec vs. Eastern Ontario, U-18 female
11 a.m., P.E.I. vs. N.S., U-18 male
Noon, P.E.I. vs. N.B., U-16 male
1 p.m., P.E.I. vs. N.S., senior women
2 p.m., Eastern Ontario vs. P.E.I., U-18 female
3 p.m., N.B. vs. N.L., U-16 male
4 p.m., 1st place vs. 4th place, U-18 male semifinal
5 p.m., N.B. vs. N.S., U-18 female
(at Simmons Field)
9 a.m., P.E.I. vs. N.L., U-20 female
10 a.m., P.E.I. vs. N.S., U-18 female
11 a.m., N.B. vs. N.L., U-18 male
Noon, P.E.I. vs. N.S., U-20 female
1 p.m., N.B. vs. N.L., senior women
2 p.m., N.B. vs. Quebec, U-18 women
3 p.m., N.S. vs. N.L., U-20 women
4 p.m., 2nd place vs. 3rd place, U-18 male semifinal
5:45 p.m., N.S. Keltic vs. N.B. Black Spruce, RCSL game
(at Colonel Gray)
9 a.m., U-16 male semifinal, 2nd vs. 3rd
10 a.m., U-18 female semifinal, 2nd vs. 3rd
11 a.m., senior women bronze medal game, 3rd vs. 4th
Noon, U-18 male bronze medal game, semifinals losers
1 p.m., U-16 male final, 1st place vs. winner 9 a.m. game
2 p.m., U-18 female bronze medal game, semifinals losers
(at Simmons Field)
9 a.m., U-20 female semifinal, 2nd vs. 3rd
10 a.m., U-18 women semifinal, 1st vs. 4th
11 a.m., senior women’s final, 1st vs. 2nd
Noon, U-18 male final, semifinals winners
1 p.m., U-20 female final, 1st vs. winner 9 a.m. game
2 p.m., U-18 female final, semifinals winners