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Axemen punch their ticket to Division 2 rugby grand final

The Axemen scored early and often en route to a dominating semifinal victory over Coquitlam United on April 30
Blake Mahovic
Axemen centre Blake Mahovic fights his way through tackles and braces himself for contact in Saturday’s match against Coquitlam United in Squamish.

The victory chant of “Axemen chop chop chop … chop chop chop … Axemen chop chop chop,” echoed throughout Squamish’s Brennan Park on Saturday, April 30 after the Axemen’s 53-10 win over Coquitlam United in the BC Rugby Division 2 semifinals.

“It was a scrappy win; we came out the gates really good. But after that, we got into our heads a bit, but it was awesome that we came away with the score line pretty advantageous on our side and now we get to go to the finals next week which we are really excited about,” said Axemen centre Blake Mahovic on the win that punched the team’s ticket to the league’s grand final.

“I’m so excited, it’s been a long time. Since COVID kind of cut everything short a few years ago, we’ve been building towards this and we actually won the division below, and now we’ve came through and in the first competitive season back, we’ve finished top of the table for the league and now we’re going to the final so hopefully we can make it back-to-back victories.”

The Axemen opened the scoring in the early minutes of the game and kept their foot on the gas, scoring multiple tries before United was able to get on the board.

“Our counter-attack is fantastic,” said head coach Keith Reeves. “We plan to attack every turnover, and that always gives us a chance to score spectacular tries. As I see it, every time they give us the ball through a kick or a turnover, then that is our opportunity to push because we aren’t working against an organized defence and we have some very highly skilled backs and that’s our best chance to use them.”

But as often happens when a team gets out to a big lead early, the Axemen took the foot off the gas and fell away from their gameplan, resulting in a lull in the middle part of the game with no scoring from either team for several minutes.

Thanks to what Reeves described as intense defensive play, the United offence was held in check until, eventually, the Axemen were able to refocus and get their groove back, scoring multiple more tries in the second half to put the game away.

Mahovic led the way for the Axemen with three tries himself, while Peter Foley scored a pair and five conversions. Cathal Donnelly, Jack Couzens and Scott Geddes also chipped in with one try a piece.

In the other semifinal matchup being played on the same day, the Surrey Beavers managed to edge out Scribes RFC in a close match with a final score of 26-23.

Despite winning their semifinal matchup in dominating fashion and having beaten the Beavers already this season, Reeves isn’t going to let his team get too confident before the May 7 final and believes there is still a lot of work to be done throughout the week if the Axemen want to take home the championship.

“We’ve played and beaten both teams this season. It will be different with it being a final, but I don’t think we need to change [our gameplan] next week,” said Reeves immediately after the win on April 30. “But we’ll be working on the set plays for next week because both teams in the other semifinal have very strong forward packs, so we need to work on the set plays like scrums and lineouts. That was definitely our Achilles heel today.”

The Division 2 final will be played at the South Surrey Athletic Park on Saturday, May 7. Kickoff is set for 12:45 p.m.