At the start of the season, coach Rob Hayes set a top 10 finish in the province for his senior boys rugby team.
It would be safe to say the team more than exceeded expectations.
The Mountain Eagles won the B.C. high school AAA senior boys rugby bronze medal on Saturday at Abbotsford’s Exhibition Stadium.
Third place is the program’s best finish since they won the provincial title back in 1989, Hayes said.
In the bronze medal game, Mountain fell behind early but recovered to take a 14-7 lead into halftime and then held on for the 20-14 win over the WJ Mouat Hawks. Omar Al-Ahmad led the offence with try, penalty kick and conversion while Sam Wegert and Patric Cho each scored a try.
The Eagles made the final four after an upset win over the No. 3 Handsworth Royals in the quarter-finals.
Mountain raced out to a 38-0 lead in what turned out to be a 45-21 victory.
“Right from kick-off, the ball bounced our way a couple of times and they (Handsworth) came out quite flat,” Hayes said. “And I think they underestimated us.”
While the bronze medal was a bit of a surprise, it wasn’t a complete shock to the coach.
Hayes took a team of Grade 10 and 11s to the Rugby Sevens provincial championships in 2016 and the Eagles won the tier 2 title.
When the 2017 season kicked off, the top five teams were put in the Elite AAA division while the remaining 10 were split into two tier 1 pools. Mountain responded by winning their tier 1 pool with a 3-1 record.
They were seeded sixth for provincials but Hayes thought his team was capable of pulling off an upset.
“We thought (the Handsworth game) was winnable but we definitely went in as underdogs,” he said.
In the semifinals, the Eagles lost 20-3 to the No. 2 Yale Lions.
Tall Birog was named to the Commissioners XV while Wegert and Cho were selected all-stars.
Mountain competes at the Rugby Sevens provincial championships this weekend at Brentwood College.