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Ormstown Saracens Rugby Club turns 50 this year!

The Ormstown Saracens Rugby Club was founded in 1972 by David Hardy, who came from England to teach physical education at Chateauguay Valley Regional High School (CVR), and Rod Beattie, who came from Scotland to work as a textile designer at Cleyn and Tinker. Both were playing for the Montreal Barbarians who had a home field in Aubrey. After a meeting at CVR in 1972, they decided to start a rugby club in Ormstown.

In the first year the Ormstown Saracens played exhibition games only, as the team was not yet a member of the Quebec Rugby Union. Of nine games they won four, lost four, and abandoned one. They scored 102 points and had 89 points scored against them – pretty good for a bunch of young lads with no experience.

The first game the Saracens played was against a team from Tracy which was the Quebec Rugby Union Second Division champion from the previous year. The Saracens won the game 7-0. David (DT) Thompson scored a try, and David Hardy kicked a penalty.

Those first Saracens were Rod Beattie, David Hardy, Dave Thompson, Jean-Pierre Lussier, Maurice Labelle, René Labelle, Danny McArthur, Bob Gillies, Ken Gillies, Michael Murray, Allan Elvidge, Glen Leslie, Steve McKissock, Jim Morton, and Murray Stevenson.

In 1973, the Saracens joined the Quebec Rugby Union Intermediate League (Second Division), which they won four years in a row (1973 to ‘76). They also won the O’Neil Cup in 1975 and 1976. In 1975, Jean-Pierre Lussier became the first Saracen to play for Quebec (against Bristol, England); he was also named Quebec Rugby Federation athlete of the year. In 1976 there were enough rugby enthusiasts to fill a second team, and in 1977, the Saracens were promoted to the Quebec Rugby Union First Division.

In the 1980s the Saracens were just as successful, even in the new division. They finished first in the league in 1981, ‘82, ‘84 and ‘87. They won the Standard Life Cup (First Division Cup) in 1985, and were finalists for the Cup in 1987 and 1988. In 1983, Bernie Bonenberg was the first Saracen to play on the Canadian senior team; he played against the United States and two games against Italy.

 

A team photo of the Ormstown Saracens as published in The Huntingdon Gleaner in 1973.  PHOTO Ormstown Saracens Rugby

 

In 1990, the Ormstown first and second teams were in their provincial divisions’ Cup finals. In 1995, the first team won both the league and the Cup in the Quebec First Division, and made it to the Cup final in 1997. The Saracens 7s team was the best team in the province in the ‘90s and provincial champion for four years (’95 to ’98).

The ‘90s marked the start of rugby at CVR thanks to Pierre Dumas, and at Arthur-Pigeon thanks to Doug Murdoch and Normand Landry. David Furey has been coaching at CVR since 2007!

When the 2000s came, it became harder to recruit players and the club only fielded one men’s team. But success continued: the Saracens were division champions in 2001, 2003, 2016, and 2018.

In 2002, many girls who had played rugby at Arthur-Pigeon and CVR reached senior age levels and wanted to keep on playing. With the help of Doug Murdoch, who was teaching at Arthur-Pigeon in Huntingdon, the first senior women’s rugby team came to life in Ormstown. Patrick Bourdeau-Collum was the first coach, along with Doug Murdoch.

With a good mix of girls from Arthur-Pigeon and CVR, plus good coaching, the Lady Saracens became one of the top teams in the province. They were Quebec 7s champions in 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2014; they won the Quebec Women’s Second Division in 2003, 2011, and 2015; and won the Quebec First Division in 2007, 2009, and 2013.

In the 2010s, the club decided to start building for the bottom up. Mini rugby was introduced for players as young as eight years old. Contact rugby starts at the U12 level. At one point, there were more than 100 children playing rugby in Ormstown. In 2014, the U14 team won the Quebec 7s championship; many of those players are now playing senior rugby.

Over the years, the following rugby players from the Valley have played for the Canadian National Team at different levels: Bernie Bonenberg (1983-1988), Serge Tremblay (1983, 1995-96), Bill Lucas (1988), Jeff Courchesne (2006), Hughanna Gaw (2008-09), Josh Blair (2011), Lea Leahy (2011), Kaylie Stuckey (2011), Marco Caza (2016), and Erika Scott (2016 and 2019).

Matt Heaton is the most successful rugby player from the Valley. He played for Canada in U17 and U20, and he has played over 30 games for Canada since 2016, including in the 2019 World Cup where he scored a try against South Africa. He is now captain of the Atlanta, Georgia rugby team in the professional league, Major League Rugby.

The Saracens have made the Valley shine around the world by hosting teams from France, England, Ireland, Wales, United States, British Columbia, and Ontario. They also went on tours to play rugby in Newfoundland, Scotland, France, Netherlands, Belgium, New Orleans, Boston, New York, Washington, New Brunswick, and Ontario.

For the last two years, the pandemic brought Valley rugby to a halt; only mini rugby has been played since. Hopefully the 2022 celebration of the Ormstown Saracens 50th anniversary will bring a boost to rugby in the Valley – and there will be rugby in Ormstown for the next 50 years and more!

For information about Ormstown Saracens Rugby: o.saracens.rfc@gmail.com

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