Bittersweet ending for women's rugby championship

Gaels fall 27-3 to McMaster on home turf

Queen's earned their first CIS silver medal in women's rugby.
Queen's earned their first CIS silver medal in women's rugby.

On a day they could have made history on home turf, the women’s rugby team fell short in the CIS gold medal game.

When it was all said and done, the McMaster Marauders triumphed over Queen’s 27-3. Both the Marauders’ gold finish and Queen’s silver medal were firsts in the schools’ histories.

For Marauders head coach Shaun Allen, the victory was the end of a long work in progress.

“It’s a huge reward for the players [after] all the work they’ve done this season,” Allen said. “I’m incredibly proud right now.”

Photo by Stephanie Nijhuis

After dropping their first game of the year to Queen’s on Nixon field 15-14, McMaster reeled off 10 straight wins.

For Allen, both teams were stronger today than they were during their week one match-up.

“We’ve gone through a transformative development phase … we knew that Queen’s has done the same,” Allen said. “They’re much better than they were in September, we’re much better than we were in September.”

“That was a hell of a battle.”

Despite taking a 3-0 lead early on, the Gaels were in tough. Loosehead prop Colleen Irowa’s try put McMaster on the board, and following a Stephanie Black conversion, the Marauders were up 7-3.

Related: Live Feed: Women's Rugby National Championship

Before the end of the first half — with McMaster deep in their zone — the Gaels made a defensive stand that kept the contest close. Backed up against their own end zone, Queen’s stopped numerous pick-and-go attempts by McMaster. After kicking the ball out of play, the halftime whistle sounded with the Gaels down 7-3.

The goal line stand was huge for the home side, but it took a lot out of the players, Queen’s head coach Beth Barz said.

In the second half, McMaster was too much to handle, and they began pulling away early. Even with missed conversions from the away side, Queen’s had a tough time finding their footing. Three more tries from the Marauders put the game out of reach, and it ended 27-3.

Barz applauded her players’ efforts after the game.

“I told them I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Barz said. “They played right to the end, and it’s hard to be on the other end of the score and to still play as hard as they did.”

Photo by Kendra Pierroz

For fifth-year captain Lauren McEwen, today’s game was the last time she’ll wear tricolour, ending her career as the Gaels’ all-time leading scorer.

“It is a really bittersweet moment,” McEwen said on the silver medal. “In just being here we proved so many people wrong. We fought right to the end.”

McEwen earned a spot on the tournament all-star alongside teammate Gill Pegg.

The tournament saw Queen’s advance to the gold medal game with dramatic wins over Acadia and Concordia, while McMaster defeated Lethbridge and Ottawa in their first two games. 

After seeing her team’s performance this weekend, McEwen said the experience will help develop her first-year teammates.

“It is not always the best team that is going to win, it is the team that wants it the most,” McEwen said. “We fought to get here, we wanted to get here and we made history doing it.”

Photo by Steph Nijhuis

When asked what she’ll remember most about her Queen’s career, McEwen was overcome with emotions. She fought back tears about her five-year career, which included an OUA championship, a CIS bronze medal and now a CIS silver medal.

“I don’t think I will remember the points or the medals. I will remember the girls and the friendships and all the dumb things we do.”

“It was so special to have lived and breathed in this environment.”

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