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Raymond Comets earn provincial silver in ASAA rugby provincials

Posted on June 15, 2023 by admin

By Garrett Simmons
Westwind Weekly News

Provincials in Calgary carried a silver lining for the Raymond Comets rugby 15s team.

Raymond faced a familiar foe in the championship game, and Calgary’s Notre Dame once again proved to be a formidable opponent. The big-city team built a 15-0 lead at the half and held on for a hard-fought 20-12 victory.

“They’re a very good team,” said Raymond coach Dan Bikman. “We’ve played them in three of the last four gold-medal games.”

The 2023 edition of the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association Tier 1 final played right into Notre Dame’s hands early, as the pace of play favoured the eventual champions, as there wasn’t much to choose from between the two squads.

“We’re very evenly matched,” said Bikman. “They probably had a bit of a size advantage, and they had a really good kicker but there were a lot of whistles in the game, and that played to Notre Dame’s advantage.”

The slower game didn’t allow Raymond’s athletes to get out and run and find the holes in Notre Dame’s defence, as the Comets fell behind early.

“They scored their first try in the first five minutes,” said Bikman, who added two Raymond penalties, and two thundering Notre Dame kicks, gave their opponents the field position needed to work the ball deep into Raymond territory.

From there, the whistles kept coming, and the Comets just ran out of time to complete the comeback.

“With 10 fewer penalties and 10 extra minutes the game is ours,” said Bikman. “But it’s a provincial final, and a provincial final can go either way. The kids played their guts out until the end and I’m super proud of them.”

Raymond, a smaller, fast-break team, was able to score 12 points in the second half, as the Comets nearly completed a championship final comeback.

“We won the second half, and I do believe if there was a different whistle count, we would have had a really good chance to win that game.”

Raymond’s path to the final included a 48-7 win over Bow Valley in the opener and a 31-7 victory over Western Canada in the semifinal.

“Those two were pretty systematic wins,” said Bikman.

And while the silver wasn’t the colour of medal Raymond came to calgary to win, the coach had nothing but praise for the effort his team put forth.

“I’m as happy with this team as any other team I’ve coached,” said Bikman, who added the Comets rugby program is as strong as ever, with an incredible mix of regional talent. “It’s almost like a fraternity with a great family feel, and with our success, we attract more and more talent. And rugby is a great sport and it’s so simple and fun.”

The kind of bonds created through the sport, even among the hyper-competitive athletes from Magrath and Raymond that battle each other on the court, is a sight to behold, according to Bikman.

“To see the friendships forged between those towns and throughout Westwind School Division is really very rewarding for a coach.”

And speaking of coaches, Raymond’s 2024 staff will look a little different, as Comets stalwart Noel Smith, who has been an assistant coach since 2007, has announced he will not be back.

“He’s been legendary and foundational to our success and he will be missed,” said Bikman, who added Smith’s wealth of rugby knowledge helped build Raymond into an elite high school rugby program.

Bikman praised Smith’s attention to detail over the years, and the integral part he played in numerous Raymond Comets championship seasons.

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