For the past three years, the city’s high school rugby pitches have remained silent while the COVID-19 pandemic ran its course.
Those same rugby pitches came alive last week with the start of the high school rugby season, including at Cairine Wilson Secondary School where the Wildcats senior boys and varsity girls teams racked up a pair of May 2 opening season wins over the Ashbury Colts.
The senior boys team won 19-10 on a pair of tries by Reid Melmoth and a solo effort by Shaan Gilani. Joe Slesar added a pair of two- point converts. Two days later on May 5, the boys were upended by Glebe Collegiate, losing 26-0 to end the week with a 1-1 record.
The Wildcats’ varsity girls team won their season opener against Ashbury on May 2,
in a game in which the Colts were able to get the ball past midfield, and even then not for long, thanks to Cairine’s crushing defence and bone-rattling tackles.
On the offensive side of the ball, Mackenzie Cosh scored a pair of tries for the Wildcats, while Cyndii Chestnut and Katie Schliebener each added a major score. Kicker Hayley Merrett added a pair of converts.
Two days later, the Lady Wildcats battled the Glebe Gryphons to a 0-0 draw to improve their record to 1-1, good enough for first place.
Both the boys ad girls teams are competing in the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association’s (NCSSAA) OFSAA division which means they are competing for a berth in the provincial championships.
What makes their early success so remarkable is that Cairine Wilson is one of the smallest high schools in the city, which means they have an incredibly small pool of students to draw from in order to form their teams.
The school’s total student population is under 700 and the total senior student body is less than 250. It’s the main reason why the girls team draws from students in all grades.
Rugby is the most popular sport at the school in terms of sheer numbers. When many schools are opting to play rugby 7s or 10s because of a lack of players, Cairine is able to field a full squad of 15 players on both boys and girls teams. On top of that, they even have a full junior boys squad.
One of the reasons they can do this, is the fact that players start recruiting other players from the beginning of the school year. Most of the team members play other sports like soccer and hockey.
Despite the lack of experience which leads to a lot of growing pains in the form of minor fouls, their tackling is on point, especially on the girls team.
There is little doubt that all three Cairine Wilson rugby teams will go deep in the play-offs, but just how deep remains to be seen.