Rugby showdown nears

Penticton hosts the B.C. Rugby Saratoga Cup this weekend, welcoming Williams Lake, Elk Valley and Kelowna

GLEN BURLINGAME of the Penticton Harlequins keeps charging a Vernon player during their 35th anniversary game on Aug. 29; which the Harlequins won handily at 73-26. The Harlequins used that game to help prepare for this weekend’s B.C. Rugby Saratoga Cup.

GLEN BURLINGAME of the Penticton Harlequins keeps charging a Vernon player during their 35th anniversary game on Aug. 29; which the Harlequins won handily at 73-26. The Harlequins used that game to help prepare for this weekend’s B.C. Rugby Saratoga Cup.

There is a hunger in the Penticton Harlequins Rugby Club.

Harlequins captain Brad Martin said after their narrow defeat at the Saratoga Cup championship last year, the Harlequins feel a little bit hard done by and want revenge this weekend.

“They are eager to win,” he said.

Action takes place at McNicoll Park Oval Saturday and Sunday (third-place game at 9 a.m., final at 11 a.m.). Saturday features semifinal games between Penticton and Williams Lake (northern champs) at 11 a.m., then Elk Valley (Kootenay champs) faces Kelowna (Lower Mainland) at 1 p.m. Should the Harlequins win, it will be their second championship since they won their first-ever title in 2012. Martin was on the team that won.

“It was definitely a feeling of elation. Never having done it before that was definitely something very special to be a part of,” he recalls.

With players from that championship squad on the current team, Martin hopes their leadership will have an impact on the newer members.

“Our team looks good,” said Martin.

“They are looking forward to the opportunity to be provincial champions once again.”

With two more practices scheduled before the weekend, Martin and the Harlequins will go over everything from fitness to game plan.  The Harlequins feel there is always areas that they can improve and will work on strategies for their forwards and have new plays for the backs.

“We’re looking forward to trying them out in game situations,” he said.

Success, Martin said, comes down to defence and the trust the players have in each other.

“I think we have built up a good confidence within the group that we can rely on our teammates to get the job done,” he said.

The team to beat, according to the Harlequins’ Daniel Hatch, is Kelowna, who is playing down a division in the championship. They represent the Lower Mainland and in the past have played in the first division. Over the last few years, they have dropped down to the third division. Hatch is familiar with the Kelowna squad as he has played against them with Capilano.

“They have some really big bodies, some strong athletic guys,” he said.

Hatch agrees with Martin that the Harlequins look good.

“Our forward pack is looking great. We’re feeling pretty hyped,” he added. “It’s going to be great.”