The Gaels pulled off the biggest victory in program history on Saturday, winning their first-ever OUA championship.
Queen’s became the fourth team in OUA history to win the provincial women’s rugby title after gutting out a 19-15 victory against the Guelph Gryphons, who were riding a 48-game league winning streak heading into the final.
Guelph had won the last five OUA championships, including a 10-6 win over Queen’s last season in Kingston. The Gaels returned the favour this year with a four-point road victory of their own, with fourth-year forward Kayla Roote leading the way with two tries.
“We are obviously very happy to come out with the win in a very tight game,” said Gaels head coach Beth Barz. “I felt like our girls really played up to their potential, which is what we were waiting for, and it was a full team effort that helped us pull it off.”
While the Gryphons struck first, thanks to an early try just five minutes into the game, the Gaels kept their composure and battled back. Queen’s managed to move the ball into the try zone after a scrum, where fourth-year lock Bronwyn Corrigan jumped on the ball to even out the score at 5-5.
The Gaels took the lead just moments later with third-year centre Lauren McEwen converting. McEwen was successful on 24 converts this year, including the playoffs.
The Gaels led 12-5 at halftime after Roote’s first try, marking only the second time this season where the Gryphons trailed at intermission.
“We’ve been able to bounce back from deficits in the past and having those experiences were helpful,” Barz said. “Nobody panicked, we were able to regroup right away.”
The Gryphons refocused after the half and closed the gap to just 12-10 after back row Devon Keys scored the first of her two tries in the match.
However, Queen’s responded once again with Roote’s second try of the game. Guelph almost managed to pull out a defensive goal-line stand, but Roote was able to find a way into the try zone. After another McEwen convert, the Gaels led 19-10.
From then on, Queen’s stingy defence took over the game, aided by multiple Guelph penalties. While Keys scored late to cut the deficit to 19-15, it was too little, too late, as the Gaels’ sideline erupted in celebration at the final whistle.
“I really couldn’t be prouder of our team,” Barz said. “It was also awesome to see our recent graduates and old alumni at the game, supporting us and celebrating with us.”
Both Queen’s and Guelph have qualified for the 2013 CIS championships, to be hosted by Laval this coming weekend.
The Gaels finished fifth at last year’s nationals, while the Gryphons took home the silver medal. Queen’s will be seeded either first or second in this year’s tournament.
“Preparation will be little bit different in that we won’t have a lot of practice time, but at this point in the season, it’s all about executing what we need to in the game,” Barz said.
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