Future looks bright for rugby sevens team as they sweep tournament

Last weekend, the Thunderbirds showed the potential to snap the University of Victoria Vikes’ five-year Canada West (CW) rugby sevens championship streak.

Since the inception of CW women’s rugby sevens — a variant of rugby played with seven players a side and shorter halves — in 2017, the Vikes have been a massive threat. They won the national title the first year, and have won the CW title every year since. UBC has placed second since 2019, just out of reach of the elusive title.

But that could all change this year.

The T-Birds easily went undefeated in the first series of the season, hosted by the University of Alberta Pandas last weekend. They are the first team other than the Vikes to win a tournament in three years. The departure of some key Vikes players to play on the Canadian Sevens team could’ve played a role, but UBC’s strong performance is not to be overlooked.

Like their division-winning 15s team, the ‘Birds played an aggressive sevens game with strong fends and scrums. The Thunderbirds maintained possession of the ball for most of the game, consistently catching their own kickoffs. With explosive speed from CW Rugby Player of the Year Shoshanah Seumantafta and Savannah Bauder, the scores were high and in the T-Birds' favour.

The only struggle points for the T-Birds were committing amateur penalties, like high tackles and knock-ons, and loosening up on their man-to-man defence — however, it was minor considering no team got more than one try past them.

Offloads were clean, showing clear communication. The team’s rugby IQ was also impressive; they ran the clock after their breakaways to cement their lead and used their speed to score with grubber kicks. The Thunderbirds played with a veteran presence despite half the team being in their rookie year.

"We had lots of new faces for sevens, so it was nice to have everyone play well together," Seumantafa said after the tournament.

One of those new faces is Tia Jordo, who scored three tries in her first sevens game. Rookie Grace Turner also looks hopeful. She scored two tries over the weekend, one of which was a 77-metre run off of a scrum just before halftime.

The Vikes will host the next tournament on February 11, where the Thunderbirds will look for a repeat performance to keep their lead.