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Swilers, Dogs to clash in Goodyear Cup rugby final

Members of the Gonzaga Vikings (blue) and Holy Heart Highlanders (black) battle it out in the opening game of St. John’s metro high school boys’ rugby this week. Seven boys’ teams and four girls’ teams are set to compete this fall. – Submitted photo
Members of the Gonzaga Vikings (blue) and Holy Heart Highlanders (black) battle it out in the opening game of St. John’s metro high school boys’ rugby this week. Seven boys’ teams and four girls’ teams are set to compete this fall. – Submitted photo - Contributed

Swilers RFC score U19 women’s championship; Gonzaga opens boys’ high school rugby season with decisive win over Holy Heart

Reigning St. John’s senior ‘A’ rugby champions Swilers hope to start another string of Goodyear Cup championship victories, beginning this weekend with the 2020 final in Mount Pearl.

The Swilers Rugby Football Club and the homestanding Dogs RFC meet in the Goodyear Cup senior ‘A’ final 3 o’clock Saturday afternoon in Mount Pearl, on the pitch behind Mount Pearl Senior High.

It’s the finish to a rather different 2020 rugby season, thanks to COVID-19, of course.

There was no provincial play this past summer, and Rugby Canada did not stage any national championships.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Rugby Union was approved for non-contact play in July, and a number of clubs began in-house flag rugby at that time.

By the end of August, mid-September, the NLRU was given the go-ahead for contact rugby. Keeping safety in mind, clubs began a series of practices over a two-week period followed by condensed play.

At one point, Newfoundland and Labrador was the only province playing 15-aside rugby.

“There were some photos shared on social media,” said Swilers executive director Morgan Lovell, “and I actually had six or seven players from around the world looking to come and play a bit, which is kind of crazy.

“We were only one of a few places in the world playing 15 aside, full contact rugby.”

That included Goodyear Cup play, which ran a condensed three-team, round-robin schedule.

Dogs were 2-0 followed by Swilers (1-1) and Baymen RFC (0-2).

There was no Sully Cup senior ‘B’ rugby this summer, nor Collins Cup summer league play because of time/scheduling restraints.

Swilers beat Baymen RFC last year for the Goodyear Cup crown after taking the 2018 title with a win over the Dogs.

That 2018 championship made up for an upset in 2017. Dogs beat Swilers that year, ending a Swilers' 13-year domination of the Goodyear Cup, and marking the Dogs’ first senior A championship win.

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Meanwhile, Swilers won the women’s under-19 championship Sunday, beating The Bay 24-12 in the final in C.B.S.

Four teams vied for the championship this season, with the Dogs and Rock U19s joining Swilers and The Bay.

Members of the Swilers’ championship squad are Jane Gatherall, Jenna Martin, Cecilia Martino, Morgan Stoyles, Eva Redmond, Jessie Penney, Kaylie Sandbrook, Kaitlin Roche, Marlow Coombs, Caitlin Menchion, Ines Garcia and Leah Hynes.

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It was looking dicey there for a while, because of the pandemic, but St. John’s metro high school rugby is off and running, with the Gonzaga Vikings striking first.

The Vikings won the high school boys’ opening game Monday, trouncing the Holy Heart Highlanders 35-5.

Seven boys’ teams are slated to play this season: Gonzaga, Holy Heart and Waterford Valley from St. John’s, along with O’Donel and Mount Pearl Senior High from Mount Pearl and Holy Spirit and Queen Elizabeth from C.B.S.

The four girls’ teams slated to play are Holy Spirit, Queen Elizabeth, Waterford Valley and Holy Heart.

Monday at the Swilers Rugby Complex, Gonzaga strung together 35 unanswered points in the win over the Highlanders.

James Noftall had two tries, with Jack Marshall, Jacob Asey and Ben James contributing one apiece.

Holy Heart scored its only try five minutes into the game when Nico Garcia Gutiérrez broke a tackle and sprinted past the Vikings’ back line.

The boys’ and girls’ high school leagues are a round-robin tournament, followed by playoffs and championship games scheduled for Nov. 7-8.

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