After a loss to the McMaster Marauders snapped their 19-game winning streak, men’s rugby is looking to get back on the right track this weekend.
The Gaels host the undefeated Guelph Gryphons tomorrow afternoon. Winning by more than seven points would move Queen’s into a tie with the Gryphons for second place in the OUA, while scoring four tries would give them sole possession of second.
Despite the potential playoff implications, the Gaels aren’t focused on where they’ll sit in the standings after Saturday.
“It’s not so much about [playoff position],” flanker Brendan Sloan said. “Obviously, you don’t want to look too far ahead into the playoffs. In the season, you kind of want to focus the game that’s right before you.”
He added that the Gaels have been looking forward to facing Guelph since the year began, but they aren’t letting the anticipation get to their heads.
“They’re some of our main competition that we see throughout the year,” he said. “So this is a big game, but we’re just looking at it like any other game.”
Sloan said Queen’s is looking to avoid the mistakes that plagued them in last Sunday’s 18-13 loss to the Marauders. The Gaels’ defence didn’t play up to the standard they’ve set in previous matches.
“We didn’t really play as well defensively [against McMaster] as we probably should have. We kind of let them charge into us a little bit,” he said. “We need to tighten up a little bit on defence, especially against a team like Guelph — they’re quite strong runners and they’re big, and quite a physical team.”
The Gaels will have to match this physicality, something Sloan said fits right into their style of play.
“We’ve got to be sure to outmatch them physically and get back to what we’re good at. Which is smashing them with our bigger boys,” he said.
Another key aspect of their game Queen’s will rely on against the Gryphons is their ability to stick to their game plan and systems.
“We’ve been progressing over the past few weeks and getting stronger and stronger,” Sloan said. “I think if we just stick to the same game plan that we’ve been with every other game, I think that we’ll do just fine against Guelph.”
After two weeks on the road, the team is back at Nixon Field, giving them the benefit of home-field advantage in the important match-up.
“All the boys are really excited to get back to be playing on Nixon Field,” Sloan said. “It seems like it’s been awhile since we played on our own home field. We’re just really excited to have a big crowd again.”
Queen’s prevailed 22-3 last October in their most recent meeting with Guelph. The 19-point margin of victory made for the second-closest game of the Gaels’ season.
A defensive battle should be expected again this year, as the Gryphons and Gaels rank first and second, respectively, in points conceded. Guelph has given up 14 points, while Queen’s has allowed 35 through four games.
Both squads also have players ranked within the OUA’s top five scorers. Gaels full back David Worsley sits fourth with 38 points, while Guelph’s Joe Newman and Adam Maahs are first and third. Maahs has accumulated 10 tries in 2014.
The chance to kick start a new win streak is there for the Gaels tomorrow. Sloan said the team is looking to find their footing heading forward.
“We’re just ready to get back out there and show everybody what we’ve got, and prove back to ourselves after that loss last week,” he said.
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