The Penticton Harlequins are Saratoga Cup champs once again.
The Harlequins topped the Kelowna Crows 18-17 on Sept. 13 and coach Ken Simpson said, “it was like everybody was playing probably their best rugby I have seen these guys play.”
“They played hard. The boys all dug down hard,” said Simpson, who helped guide the team to its second championship in four years. “They played with a lot of heart. They supported each other. It was amazing to watch. It was unbelievable how hard they worked.”
It was a physical affair between the sides that resulted in three injuries for the Harlequins. When captain Brad Martin was asked if the injured players carpooled to the hospital, he joked that they do like to have some fun.
“Yeah, I think a few of them went. I don’t know if we ended up carpooling or not,” he said. “Had to have a few guys go there. One got a pretty good head knock.”
Even with the injuries, subs stepped up and Simpson loved his team’s effort as nobody left anything on the McNicoll Park Field.
“Playing against a first division team, our guys played like a first division team,” he added.
Martin said it was an intense performance as he and his teammates all raised their game to a new level. He said it was a fantastic experience.
“We played for each other. We played with a lot of heart. We stuck to our systems,” he said. “We trained hard and we just used those and we believed in each other.”
Martin believes that momentum swung in their favour midway through the second half during a scrum in the Kelowna zone.
“Our guys just got stuck right in and drove over top of them and they earned us a penalty,” he said. “Everybody was really pumped up. Even moreso then we had been during the game.”
Scoring for the Harlequins was Masiu Fine and Rob Carr, while Trevor Miyazaki had two penalty kicks including one from 40 yards out and a conversion.
Once victory was decided Martin felt triumphant and excited.
“Just an overwhelming sense of emotion. You don’t really know how to put it into words after you play all season and play a game of that intensity for 80 minutes against very good opposition,” he said. “You see some of your teammates go down with some of those injuries. To be able to come through, overcome with joy and pride in your team and teammates.”
Martin added it was also great to have spectator support.
“It was nice to have them there and hear them cheering us on,” said Martin, whose team easily defeated Williams Lake Sept. 12 to advance to the championship. “That made a big difference late in the game.”