By Ian Ferguson
The Chuckanut Bay U17 boys rugby team brought home another state championship, defeating the Liberty team from Renton 41–25 in a rough-and-tumble match on home turf May 16.
Nine of the 16- and 17-year-old athletes are from Blaine. The Chuckanut Bay Rugby program, based in Bellingham, is one of the most prestigious programs in the state, with a slew of state championships at the high school and amateur levels. Several veterans of the program have gone to succeed at the professional level, including 20-year-old Titi Lamositele, who played for Chuckanut Bay in 2012 and is now regarded as one of the best up-and-coming props in the Aviva Premiership in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Rugby is like an ancient version of American football, with a slightly larger ball, no forward passing and nearly constant action. Teams try to advance the ball over a line at their opponents’ end of the field to score points (called a “try”), while preventing their opponents from doing the same. There are fewer pads than in American football, so greater emphasis is put on proper tackling form.
The state title game was tied at 20 points at halftime. Assistant coach Brad Otto didn’t expect the tied score at halftime.
“We had played Liberty a couple weeks ago and beaten them handily, so a lot of the parents on the sideline were surprised to see it tied at the half,” Otto said. “In the second half our boys buckled down and their conditioning started to pay off. We stiffened up the defense and kept scoring points.”
Chuckanut only allowed five points in the second half, while more than matching their offensive production from the first half. The team had recently travelled to Australia and Hawaii to play international opponents, and Otto said the lessons from those games paid off.
“The boys knew what to do in that close situation, and they showed their experience and determination,” Otto said. “They played awesome.”
For this group of local rugby players, the win was their third state title in as many years: they won two state titles while playing for the U15 team.
“It’s a really strong group of kids, and they’re going to see a lot of success when they move up to U19,” Otto said.
All nine of the Blaine athletes on the Chuckanut Bay U17 rugby team have played or are planning on playing for Blaine High School football, and Otto said the rugby experience helps them succeed on the gridiron.
“There’s a lot of crossover,” Otto said.
The rugby team has two games against teams from England scheduled for this summer, and have plans to travel to England and Wales in 2017, Otto said.