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Cowichan 49ers claim Tony Grover Cup, repeat as Island Masters soccer champs

The 49ers will be at home for the first round of the provincial championship on April 16 at noon
With a 4-0 victory over the weekend, the Cowichan 49ers are now winners of two consecutive and five Tony Grover Cups overall. (Courtesy of the Cowichan 49ers)

To say the Cowichan 49ers are the 2022/23 Tony Grover Cup champions seems like an understatement.

The masters soccer team was indeed successful in repeating as champions with a 4-0 win over Gorge FC Saturday, March 25, but they didn’t simply win, they dominated the field en route, giving up just one goal against in the process.

With the victory, Cowichan has been victorious five of the last six times the Cup has been contested. Cowichan won four in a row before UVic Alumni took the title in 2019/20. COVID-19 kept the trophy in its case the following year. Last year Cowichan regained bragging rights, which will now continue through until next year.

The teams traded chances in the first 40 minutes of the game. With Gorge having the better chances early, Darian Achurch held the 49ers in the game early on with some massive saves. In the 43th minute, Richard Lord crossed a ball to the penalty spot and a diving Brad “Archie” Archibald connected with his head to make it 1-0.

Coach Kevin James, was tweaking game tactics and players all game long and it paid off.

The 49ers started the second half strong and in quick succession the team scored three goals over a span of five minutes. Yuta Yamata set up the second 49ers goal with a surging run down the right side, finding Stuart “Shake N Bake” Barker at the top of the 18. Barker curled a beauty into the top corner.

Neall “Rocket” Rowlings scored the team’s third marker, finding some space to run into, beating a couple of defenders and hitting a bullet to the left corner.

Archibald scored his second, after a Rowlings shot from the right side hit the crossbar and Tyler Hughes collected the ball on the left to find Archibald’s run with a sneaky back pass.

Fittingly, Achurch earned the empty sheet, keeping every ball that came his way out of Cowichan’s net.

“It always feels good lifting some hardware,” Rowlings admitted. “The team works hard all year for this opportunity. Everyone on the roster has contributed to our success this year and we are looking forward to the next challenge.”

Cowichan’s Jesse Winter took home some additional hardware, selected as the Tony Grover MVP. Archibald was given the chain for Man of the Match.

“Both have been so strong for us this year,” Rowlings said.

The 49ers will be at home for the first round of the provincial championship on April 16 at noon. If Port Moody beats Surrey of the Fraser Valley, Cowichan gets another shot at the team that took them out in the semi-finals last year and went on to win it all.

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