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P.E.I. Abbies win first gold at under-18 Atlantic boys’ championship


MONTAGUE, P.E.I. —

Prince Edward Island has been sending provincial teams to the Atlantic Canadian under-18 boys’ rugby championship for years, but never left with a gold medal.

That changed Sunday when the P.E.I. Abbies defeated the Nova Scotia Keltics 15-7 in Three Rivers.

“It’s definitely an honour,” captain David Sato said. “I’m really thankful for everyone on the team and especially the coaches and parents.”

The 17-year-old Cornwall resident gave the home side a 5-0 lead and Caleb Dawson booted the convert to make it 7-0. It held up until the final minute of the first half when the Keltics scored a try and booted the long convert.

Caleb Dawson, left, and David Sato were part of P.E.I. Abbies under-18 boys’ rugby team that won the Atlantic championship Sunday in Montague.
Caleb Dawson, left, and David Sato were part of P.E.I. Abbies under-18 boys’ rugby team that won the Atlantic championship Sunday in Montague.

The Abbies have stressed not looking in the rear-view mirror all season and it proved critical on Sunday.

“You have to forget about it. It’s in the past. It’s gone,” head coach James Voye said.

The Abbies came out of the halftime break focused. A couple quick passes and a long run had P.E.I. threatening to regain the lead before Jordan Arsenault slid into the corner of the end zone for the game-winning try.

“Huge” is how Dawson described the quick strike to start the second half. “That’s all we needed.”

His convert was just short, but he later chipped in a penalty kick to give the Abbies a 15-7 lead they would not relinquish.

But the Keltics didn’t go down quietly. They pushed late to make it a one-possession game, but each time Nova Scotia tried to inch closer to the try-line they were met by one or more Abbies’ defenders.

“It’s pretty stressful but I knew our forwards (would get) in those A spots and (be) able to make those tackles,” said Dawson, a 17-year-old stand-off from Summerside.

Voye said they take a lot of pride in their goal-line defence.

“When the guys get pushed back there, it’s almost like they shift gears a little bit and they really focus on getting low,” he said. “They did a good job of that at the end of the game.”

With the final seconds ticking off the clock and the referee waiting for the play to end, the Abbies had a counter ruck to force a turnover and Brandon Gillis kicked the ball through the end zone.

The referee blew the whistle once.

And then there was a pause – before he blew it again to end the contest.

“The pause really made it more dramatic,” Dawson said.

“It was a huge relief,” Sato added. “It felt unreal.”

Voye said he was proud of his charges’ efforts.

“Towards the end of the game I think it was the boys’ desire and they wanted to win more,” he said.

Prince Edward Island traditionally has fielded smaller, faster lineups, but a look at the field Sunday showed the Island squad with a better blend than in the past.

“You need the size to survive. It’s a long three or four days with a lot of games,” Voye said. “It’s intimidating when the other teams look over at you and you have some big kids.”

He has witnessed the evolution of the sport in the province.

When he first started coaching, he was calling people a few days before a tournament in order to field enough for a squad.

“The kids are starting to hear (about the 2018 success) and they’re a little more excited to come out and play rugby,” he said. “It makes a big difference.”

P.E.I. went 3-0 in the round robin and defeated New Brunswick in the semifinal to punch its berth in the championship game. The victory gives the Abbies confidence heading to the eastern nationals, Aug. 12-18 in Kingston, Ont.

“Even though we’re pretty happy that we won gold in this tournament, we still have a lot to work for,” Sato said. “Every practice we should stay focus and get ready for Easterns.”

Prince Edward Island won bronze in under-18 girls as well as both under-16 boys and girls at the Atlantics.

The P.E.I. Abbies won the Atlantic Canadian under-18 boys’ rugby championship Sunday in Three Rivers. Team members, front row, from left, are Isaac Arsenault, Nick Trainor, Caleb Dawson, Ethan Beaulieu, Jordan Arsenault, Stephen Smallwood, Alex Compton, Robbie Munro, Brandon Ndiweni, Brandon Gillis, Joe Hanson, Jack Murphy, Kyler Weeks and Sam Solomon. Second row, assistant coach Sylvain Duguay, Thomas Shea, Ryan Murphy, Jack Triantafillou, Kaden Rennie, Andrew Crane, Trevor Whalen, Noah Poirier, Hunter Wight, Merlin M’Cloud, Daniel Barry, Isaiah Dean, Colby Maclean, David Sato, Dexter Stewart, head coach James Voye and assistant coach Lauren Sheidow. Missing was assistant coach Niki Triantafillou.
The P.E.I. Abbies won the Atlantic Canadian under-18 boys’ rugby championship Sunday in Three Rivers. Team members, front row, from left, are Isaac Arsenault, Nick Trainor, Caleb Dawson, Ethan Beaulieu, Jordan Arsenault, Stephen Smallwood, Alex Compton, Robbie Munro, Brandon Ndiweni, Brandon Gillis, Joe Hanson, Jack Murphy, Kyler Weeks and Sam Solomon. Second row, assistant coach Sylvain Duguay, Thomas Shea, Ryan Murphy, Jack Triantafillou, Kaden Rennie, Andrew Crane, Trevor Whalen, Noah Poirier, Hunter Wight, Merlin M’Cloud, Daniel Barry, Isaiah Dean, Colby Maclean, David Sato, Dexter Stewart, head coach James Voye and assistant coach Lauren Sheidow. Missing was assistant coach Niki Triantafillou.

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