* Note — As part of his “day job,” photographer Robert Hoppie rode along with the Snow Canyon Rugby club team to a West Coast tournament in Southern California and was kind enough to file this report, along with these incredible photographs, for St. George News. Robert is a regular contributing photographer to St. George News’s sports section.
SANTA CLARITA, Calif. – Apparently word is out, even in Southern California, that you don’t mess with Snow Canyon Rugby.
The Snow Canyon rugby club team made its annual pilgrimage to Southern California Saturday to pit its skills against some of the Golden State’s top teams and domination was the word of the day as the Warriors once again brought home the top trophy.
The 11th and 12th graders competed in a U18 bracket and left no doubt that the boys from Utah can bring the ruck. Snow Canyon was scheduled to play three round-robin format games, but were only able to play two matches. The third scheduled team apparently didn’t want any part of the beatdown the Warriors had dished out earlier in the day, so they packed up and went home, leaving Snow Canyon with the first place hardware.
The Warriors’ first match of the day was a sound victory over a Southern California club team called the Tigers. The Warriors beat them 21-0 with Sam Slivers scoring a couple of tries.
The second match result was more of the same, with Snow Canyon again victorious over a Pasadena team 29-5. Trevor Horlacher and Chase Gubler got into the scoring column to help the Warriors to the victory.
Coach Jay Day said he felt that the tournament yielded positive results and also gave the Warriors some idea of what things needed to be worked on.
“I was pleased with the way the boys executed and played together as a team today,” he said. “We’re a small team, so we are having to use our speed to our advantage and out-hustle the teams we play.”
This is the third year the rugby Warriors have made the six hour bus trip here to Santa Clarita.
“This tournament is a great kickoff to our season, it gives us unity, coach Michael Puriri said. “It’s all about team. We like to get that unity started early in the season.”
Puriri said he’s excited for the upcoming rugby season and the tremendous growth in popularity the sport has undergone in southern Utah.
“We are looking to seniors Connor Parry, Kade Derrick and Mason Reed to take lead roles on the team,” he said. “They have been with us since seventh grade, so we know as coaches they are more than capable of leading this team.”
Snow Canyon’s rugby team won the Utah State Championship in 2010 and 2011. The Warriors were runners-up last season, so they are looking to get back on top.
Local rugby has had a surge in popularity in the southern Utah area in the past few years. Rugby isn’t a sanctioned high school sport in Utah at this time, so the teams are run as clubs. affiliated with the schools and their students, but not officially representing the school.
“We are excited for some of these boys that have been in our program to come back from their (LDS) missions and college and help inject some interest and knowledge about rugby into our community,” Day said.
The younger rugby Warrior squad was in action this weekend at the Santa Clarita tournament as well. They were able to play four matches winning two and losing two. The 9th and 10th grade team is a mix of boys that have played club ball for a few years and those who have never played before.
“The experienced kids have done a good job of showing the new guys the way we do things,” said Dan Roberts, coach of the younger group. “It’s a big help to have those boys that can help me teach the fundamentals to the new guys.”
The Warriors will be in action again next weekend as they travel to Las Vegas for another tournament. They also have a trip to Gilbert, Ariz., planned in February for more tournament action.
* — Story and photographs by Robert Hoppie
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