By Garrett Simmons
Westwind Weekly News
The Raymond Comets 7s rugby program is back on top of the Alberta landscape.
Raymond took gold on the weekend at the St. Albert Rugby Football Club, as the Comets went unbeaten in five games.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing, as a trio of Edmonton schools put up a strong fight against the powerhouse program from southern Alberta.
When all was said and done, however, the Comets came out on top with a 25-10 win over Frank Maddock in the championship game.
“It was a good game,” said Comets coach Dan Bikman. “They had a lot of good, fast athletes, and they were bigger than us. All of these teams were bigger than us, because we had no Grade 12s.”
Despite being outsized, the battle tested Comets rose to the occasion and eventually broke through.
“They scored on us a couple of times and it went back and forth for a little while.”
Raymond kicked off play Friday morning with a 22-5 win over Austin O’ Brien, and followed that up with a hardfought 10-5 win over St. Francis Xavier.
Despite the win, the opening match did provide Raymond with a bit of a wake-up call.
“They scored first on us, which was a shocker,” said Bikman. “They scored a minute into the game but they collected themselves and battled through it.”
Raymond’s compete level intensified even further against St. Francis.
“That was a battle,” said Bikman. “That was the toughest game of the weekend because they played exceptional defence.”
The Comets kept the unbeaten streak alive with an impressive 35-0 win on Friday night over Spruce Grove.
“It was a little more systematic,” said Bikman about the victory.
Saturday featured another tough contest, as the top-ranked Comets took on Memorial, the second-place team from Pool A. Raymond’s berth in the final was punched with a 20-5 win.
And with a 7s roster that did not include any seniors, Bikman added the provincial experience will serve the program well in the years to come.
“It was fun to see these kids step up into leadership roles, and really step up at the varsity sports level.”
As for Raymond’s seniors, and the rest of the rugby 15s team, this weekend will feature another stiff test, as the team heads to Edmonton for provincials.
Raymond enters as the prohibitive favourite, as the Comets are fresh off a 78-0 win on Monday over Lethbridge Collegiate Institute in the zone championship.
“LCI played very connected defence from start to finish,” said Bikman, who added the score was not indicative of the quality of the match. “We obviously got a lot of tries but it took multiple phases for us to score every try.”
The south zone champions now face the prospect of a trip to Edmonton for an opportunity to bring home the Tier 1 banner. Alberta’s best 15s teams will have to find ways to slow down a dominant Raymond team.
“We just encourage the same level of compete in practice every day,” said Bikman, who added that is how his team must prepare for provincials. “Whether you’re a dominant team or not, championships are tough to get. Because they are dominant and they are the favourite, we just tell them to finish the season the right way.”
No. 1 ranked Raymond will likely open play against Calgary’s Western Canada, the No. 8 ranked Tier 1 team in Alberta.