In a rematch of last year’s OUA quarterfinal, women’s rugby surged defensively in the second half to topple the York Lions 41-7 (2-2).
The Gaels fell behind at first, with the Lions clinging to an early 7-0 lead. Captain Lauren McEwen expected the opponents to come out firing on all cylinders.
“York is always a tough team to play,” she said. “They’re hungry, they don’t back away and they always come out in that first 20 minutes with great defense.”
With heavy wind and cold weather playing a factor in the Gaels’ slow start, McEwen knew that they were in for a long night.
“We had a lot of uncontrollables … the weather, the field and the officials.”
After falling down early, the Gaels bounced back thanks to their strong defense. They closed out the first half with 24 unanswered points, taking a 24-7 lead into the break.
“Our decision-making was not the best,” McEwen said of the Gaels’ first half play. “But when we made mistakes we recovered really well.”
In the second half, the Gaels shut down all of the Lions opportunities. With the Gaels dominating possession, they added 17 more points to achieve their 41-7 win.
The Gaels were led by third-year Emma Chown, who added another three tries to her resume. Caitie Ryan, Miranda Seifert, McKinley Hunt and Lauren McEwen also added tries for the Gaels. McEwen would add another three conversions to score 11 points on the day, putting her season total to 39 points.
Chown currently leads the OUA with 11 tries.
While happy with the win, McEwen wasn’t entirely satisfied.
“It was good rugby, but not our best,” McEwen said. “That’s almost a good thing. We are still growing, we’re not complacent. We’re still fighting. We are still working the hardest to be the best.”
This wakeup call against the Lions will affect this week’s preparation for the Gaels’ game with the undefeated Guelph Gryphons.
The Gryphons are currently ahead of the Gaels in the CIS rankings, sitting in second place. Through four games, they’ve only allowed three points, averaging 98 points on offense.
In their last three games, the Gaels have been able to outscore their opponents 201-10. But these teams weren’t their toughest opponents, McEwen said, which worked out well, because the team was able to rest some players and deal with injuries.
For McEwen, the Gryphons-Gaels match-up will be a defining moment in the Gaels’ season.
“They are a really good team, but we always match-up well with them,” McEwen said. “It is such a defensive game versus them. The game is very physical.”
But in the end, these are the match-ups that really count.
“It is going to come down to those one-on-one physical battles that are going to add up to who wins or loses,” McEwen said.
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