The Bitterroot Valley Warriors rugby club traveled to Kalispell on March 27 and played their first ever Montana Youth Rugby match.
The Warriors, comprised of high school players from Corvallis, Stevensville, Hamilton and Florence, won behind strong forward play and the kicking of Mikiel Butler who converted two tries and kicked two penalty goals. The forwards maintained pressure on their opponents throughout the match while the back line stifled Kalispell's attack and maintained constant offensive pressure. Billy Winsett and Colin Kanenwisher also scored tries for the Bitterroot side.
It was an amazing win for the young local boys, because they all basically had their first lesson in rugby a little more than three weeks ago.
"None of us had ever actually played rugby," said Spencer Kanenwisher, a junior at Hamilton High School. "We have a bunch of great coaches though. Basically, we started learning rugby three weeks ago."
Kanenwisher said the first rugby match was one of the most fun sporting competitions he's ever been a part of.
"It was pretty exciting," he said. "Especially to get a win in our first match. There was a ton of confusion, because it was our first game. But we just played physical. We got pretty banged up, but it was more fun than any sport we've played before. We expected it to be more physical than football."
It is the exception rather than the norm for a newly formed club, such as the Warriors, to win their first-ever match against an established team. Many teams in Montana have struggled mightily in their first year.
In the second match, a side comprised mainly of Warrior junior high players played the same Kalispell High School players and, although eventually losing 17-0, gave a solid performance against the larger, older players. The juniors nearly scored twice and impressed spectators and opponents alike with their solid tackling and dogged play.
The Warriors host the Missoula Mud Dogs tomorrow in Corvallis behind the LDS Church, 957 N. Eastside Highway. Kickoff time is 5 p.m. and admission is free.
The Warriors will host a Round Robin tournament for all Montana Western Division teams on Saturday, April 10, at the same location. Games will start at 10 a.m. and run through the afternoon.
Following is the season schedule for the Bitterroot Valley "Warriors". All home games will be played at the Corvallis field.
Missoula at HOME - 1 p.m.
Bitterroot Round Robin - 10 a.m.
at Simms - 1 p.m.
MRU State at Missoula - TBA
MYRA Round Robin
MaggotFest at Missoula - TBA
Rep Side Selections
at Frenchtown - 1 p.m.
MYRA State at Helena - TBA
New Zealand Days at Missoula
Challenge Cup at Missoula
U-19 Rep Side Tournament
Aug. 31-Sept. 3
English U18 Tour Side - at Missoula