Rugby Raiders continue to roll

Lindsay Thurber Raiders head coach Dean Plant has to stop and think when asked about why the Raiders have dominated the Central Alberta High School Boys’ Rugby League for close to a decade.

Notre Dame Cougar Jesse Cheema takes a pass from teammate as he’s tackled by Lindsay Thurber Raider Dallas Snider on Wednesday. The Raiders won 36-5.

Raiders 36 Cougars 5

Lindsay Thurber Raiders head coach Dean Plant has to stop and think when asked about why the Raiders have dominated the Central Alberta High School Boys’ Rugby League for close to a decade.

“I don’t really have an answer,” he said.

“I know the kids play with a lot of heart and they make a big deal out of not allowing the opposition to cross their (goal) line. They make it tough for anyone to get in.”

The Raiders do have the premier defence in the Central Alberta league, but their offence was no slouch either as was evident in a 36-5 victory over the Notre Dame Cougars in the league’s Tier I championship final at Titans Park Wednesday.

It was the Titans ninth straight league title, all under the direction of Plant.

Meanwhile, the girls’ edition of the Cougars got their revenge as they overcame a 12-5 deficit to record a 17-12 victory over the Raiders.

It was the Cougars fourth straight Tier I league title.

On the boys’ side, the Raiders got two tries each from Ryan Clark and Ian Mahood and one each from Kyle Martin and Ramar Villaneuva. Grady Bowd had two converts and Mahood one. Connor Borle scored a try for the Cougars.

“I give the Cougars a lot of credit, they played hard and pushed us,” said Plant. “We made some mistakes which doesn’t hurt as we’ll try to eliminate those before the provincials.”

The Raiders will compete in the provincials, June 12-13 in Ellersley. Last year they finished fourth and Plant feels they have a better team this year.

“In fact I believe this is the best team I’ve had. We have a group of kids who are very coachable and are like sponges, they absorb everything. They don’t have big heads . . . they listen and are respectful,” said Plant, who also doesn’t believe in a specific coaching style.

“We’ll switch our style around to accommodate the players,” he said.

“It may change from year to year. But the big thing is we’re always fortunate to have some outstanding athletes, who we can mold into decent rugby players. Guys who’ll continue on to the senior Titans.”

Plant doesn’t mind taking players in Grade 12, with only one year of eligibility remaining.

“We get a lot of guys who play basketball and volleyball, so they don’t come out in Grade 10 or 11 as they don’t want to get hurt, but will in their final year,” he said. “But that’s fine. We’ll take those guys because they’re outstanding athletes.”

Still Plant, along with longtime assistant coaches Lonny Amundson and Wayne Morgan, have a solid base of veterans, led by Bowd, Mahood and Stephen Holmes.

Cougars 17 Raiders 12

Anne Jeans scored the winning try for the Cougars late in the final quarter, breaking a 12-12 tie.

Melissa Wyntjes had a pair of tries for the Cougars with Allison Taylor kicking a convert.

Breanna Beck had a try and convert for the Raiders with Tannis Kaun adding a try.

“That was a battle,” said Cougars head coach Ryan Sawula. “An excellent game. They made us work for it, which is what we needed heading into the provincials.”

The Cougars finished third at the provincials last year and could be even better this time around.

“I think we’re more athletic and better balanced,” said Sawula. “I’m excited and looking forward to the provincials.”

The Cougars have a solid offence, but most of all they rely on their defence.

“We focus on defence all season,” said the veteran coach, who has been with the team for seven years. “It’s the one thing we work on in practice and the girls really stepped up in that area tonight. They dug down when it mattered the most, especially when it was 12-12 and they were deep in our end.”

Like Plant Sawula and co-coach Anita LaRose, takes the best athletes when it comes to filling out their roster.

“We have a number of girls who played three years, but we also have good all-around athletes who play basketball or volleyball,” he said. “They play the other sports, but they find rugby to be a fun sport.”

Contact Danny Rode at drode@bprda.wpengine.com

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