It was a loss that sparked men’s rugby’s run to their third straight OUA title.
The Gaels suffered defeat at the hands of the McMaster Marauders on Sept. 28, losing 18-13 and falling to 3-1 on the regular season.
Forward Brendan Sloan said the loss proved to be a turning point. The Gaels reeled off six straight wins after that game, including a 61-0 win over McMaster in the OUA semi-final on Nov. 1.
Last Saturday, Queen’s came back from a 16-point deficit against the Guelph Gryphons, prevailing 32-23 at Nixon Field to capture another provincial championship.
“Honestly, I think losing to Mac was a key moment for us,” Sloan said. “It showed us what we needed to work on and when things went wrong we had to build on those.”
Sloan said Queen’s veteran experience was a crucial aspect in repeating as champions. Six Gaels were named to the OUA All-Star team — five of whom, including Sloan, featured on the team’s 2012 and 2013 championship rosters.
“[We had] really good coaching. We had a really large veteran presence this year on the team,” Sloan said. “Every guy was dedicated to the same goal of winning another gold medal and going back-to-back-to-back.”
Despite losing a match for the first time since September 2012, the Gaels were still among the dominant teams in the OUA. They conceded a league-low 65 points during the regular season and scored over 47 points a game.
The team clinched home-field advantage for the playoffs with a 33-17 win over Guelph on Oct. 4. Three of Queen’s seven regular-season wins were shutouts, including a 113-0 romp over the Toronto Varsity Blues on Oct. 10.
Several players had successful seasons on an individual front. Forward Jacob Rumball was named OUA MVP and was joined by five teammates on the provincial All-Star team: Sloan, forwards Tommy Kirkham and James Dent and backs Kainoa Lloyd and David Worsley.
Worsley’s 78 points were fourth most in the OUA, while Lloyd also ranked among the league’s top 10 scorers. Kirkham tallied two tries in the championship game against Guelph, earning Man of the Match honours.
The team will lose a large chunk of their core next season; every All-Star but Lloyd is set to graduate. Sloan said the Gaels should still rank among the province’s best next season.
“You’ve got to keep in mind that all the young players that are going to be starting next year have learned from some of the really good players,” he said.
“You can’t consider us underdogs for that reason. I mean, we’ve dominated the league for three straight years now,” Sloan added. “They’re going to have the skills next year to fill our shoes hopefully and win some games as well.”
Lloyd and fellow second-year Lucas Rumball are two of the younger players who will continue to play important roles in the future of the program.
Sloan said that while the team didn’t attain their goal of a perfect season, the championship was all the Gaels needed.
“I’m really glad we could end in the way we did — with another win on Nixon Field,” he said.
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