Vernon Jackals back Travis Beck runs into a wall of Penticton Harlequins tacklers during the 2019 Okanagan Rugby League final in Vernon. The four-time champion Jackals, Harlequins and Salmon Arm Yeti begin the three-team ORU Saturday after a year’s absence. (Black Press file photo)

Vernon Jackals back Travis Beck runs into a wall of Penticton Harlequins tacklers during the 2019 Okanagan Rugby League final in Vernon. The four-time champion Jackals, Harlequins and Salmon Arm Yeti begin the three-team ORU Saturday after a year’s absence. (Black Press file photo)

Okanagan Rugby Union returns to pitch

Vernon, Salmon Arm and Penticton will battle for spot in provincial finals in September

The gentlemen’s sport returns to Okanagan pitches this month.

The three-team Okanagan Rugby Union will kick off its season this Saturday, July 24, with the rebranded Salmon Arm Yeti hosting the four-time reigning ORU champion Vernon Jackals at Little Mountain Park.

Game time is 4 p.m.

The Penticton Harlequins, who lost the 2019 ORU final 33-12 to the Jackals, round out the league.

“We got the OK to start running a few weeks ago,” said Jackals’ back Bryan Cragg. “There’s a bunch of new rules and COVID boxes to tick but it’s worth it to have rugby back.”

The ORU did not play in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Each team will play the others twice, home and away. As of now, Vernon is slated to host both the Yeti and Harlequins on Saturday, Sept. 11, in a mini-tournament though that could change.

The Harlequins will entertain Salmon Arm Aug. 7 and Vernon the following Saturday, Aug. 14.

Salmon Arm’s second home date is slated to be played against Penticton on Aug. 28.

The top two teams will meet in the ORU championship match Sept. 18 with the winner advancing to the Saratoga Cup provincial championships in Kamloops Sept. 25-26.

The Saratoga Cup is contested between teams from the Okanagan, Kootenays and North. Vernon hosted the event in 2019.

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