The Penticton Harlequins fell just short of repeating as the Okanagan Rugby Union champions on Saturday.
A close match left the Harlequins on the short end, losing 31-20 to the Salmon Arm/Enderby Manthers at McNicoll Park.
“They scored a late try and up until very close to the end of the game we were down by four point, so certainly within reach,” said coach Ken Sommerfeldt. “They scored late when a fellow ran the length of the field to score and just put it out of reach for us right at the end.”
A kick right at the end of the game could have clinched a victory for the Harlequins, but it just missed. The Harlequins only played the Manthers one other time this season, losing by two points. The team knew going into the finals, after slipping by a depleted Vernon Jackals roster in the semi-finals 29-22, that it was going to be a squeaker.
“We have been very evenly matched all year and knew what we were up against with the Manthers. For the most part our game plan worked but they also knew what we were like and worked their game plan against us. It was a good, hard-fought game and could have went either way,” said Sommerfeldt.
Scoring the three tries for the Harlequins were Vic Fullard, Scott Naylor and Sam Shine. Converting one of the tries and kicking a penalty goal also was Shine.
Sommerfeldt was hoping the Harlequins would come out on top to send them to the B.C. Championship Saratoga Cup, which Penticton is supposed to be hosting in September. The Harlequins had a 5-2 record this season and the coach said he has seen big growth in some of the players, including Ben Garrod.
“He has certainly turned into one of our stronger players. He missed one game this season and it was very noticeable that he wasn’t there and was one of two losses,” said Sommerfeldt.
Garrod has only played with the Harlequins for three years and comes from the UK, and only had experience playing rugby at a school level.
“In the last three years he has turned into one of our stronger players and really stood out for us the whole year,” said the coach.