The Cowichan 49ers’ Brad Thorne charges toward the goal during last Saturday’s Tony Grover Cup semifinal at the Sherman Road turf. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

The Cowichan 49ers’ Brad Thorne charges toward the goal during last Saturday’s Tony Grover Cup semifinal at the Sherman Road turf. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Cowichan 49ers return to Grover Cup final

Niners knock off Bobcats in semifinal

Since their inception in 2016, the Cowichan 49ers have not missed a Tony Grover Cup final, and that impressive streak will continue this year.

The 49ers booked their ticket to a fifth-straight final in the Vancouver Island Soccer League’s O35 championship tournament with a 4-2 win over the Cordova Bay Red Barn Bobcats at the Sherman Road turf last Saturday night, and have a chance to win their first title since 2019.

Cowichan opened the scoring on a free kick that ended up going in off a Bobcats player. The Bobcats replied before halftime, and the teams went to the break tied at 1-1. The second half saw Henry Nelson restore the Niners’ lead before Man of the Match Matt James added some insurance on a free kick. The Bobcats got back within one on a long range shot, but an own goal into the Cordova net sealed the win for Cowichan.

Since the 49ers’ last win, arch-rival UVic Alumni won in 2020, beating Cowichan 2-1 in a final that was delayed several months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 tournament was cancelled completely, again thanks to COVID.

Cowichan will return to the final this year with a new opponent after Vic West defeated JDF Pacific 4-1 in Victoria last Saturday.

“The team wants the title back, and now we have the chance,” Cowichan striker Neall Rowlings commented. “Vic West will not be an easy opponent; we’ve played three times and split the results equally: one win, one tie and one loss each.”

All those games were close: Vic West won the first meeting between the teams this season 3-2 on Oct. 23, the next was a scoreless tie on Dec. 11, and Cowichan prevailed 1-0 on Feb. 19. The Tony Grover Cup final will be played at Langford’s Starlight Stadium on Sunday, March 27.

Before that, though, the Niners will face UVic Alumni this Saturday, with the league title on the line. If the 49ers win, the title is theirs. A draw or a UVic win means it belongs to UVic. The match goes on Saturday, March 19 at 6 p.m. on the Sherman Road turf.

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