Gaels grind Mustangs’ gears

Rugby beats Western 18-13 to advances to OUA rugby finals

Western back Zach Wittenberg tries to bring down Gaels’ centre Steve Shortly in Saturday’s semifinal. Queen’s won 18-13.
Western back Zach Wittenberg tries to bring down Gaels’ centre Steve Shortly in Saturday’s semifinal. Queen’s won 18-13.

The men’s rugby team is headed to the OUA finals tomorrow after a thrilling 18-13 win over the rival Western Mustangs on Saturday.

On a sunny, summer-like day, the Gaels won on the strength of a stellar second half, with a boisterous crowd jeering the opposition.

Alistair Clark and Sean Duke scored tries for Queen’s while leading scorer Bryn Davies added two penalties and a conversion.

Queen’s captain James Potter said his team won because they asserted themselves physically.

“Western games, there’s always a lot of emotion between the two teams, and a big part of the game is just establishing physical dominance,” he said. “You’ve got to control the play. The team that dictates the play wins.”

Other than a long penalty kick five minutes in by Davies, giving the Gaels a 3-0 lead, and a try by Clark, the Gaels spent much of the first half pinned in their own end.

Potter said the team remained confident despite being slightly outplayed.

“We were making it hard for ourselves and yet we were still ahead on the scoreboard, so we came out of halftime with a ton of confidence,” he said.

With Queen’s playing short due to a yellow card to Colin Frenke, Marcus Mitchell scored Western’s first try, making the score 8-5 at the end of the first half.

In the second half, Queen’s took control, with Duke and Davies completing the scoring and Western’s only points coming on a great individual effort by Colin Brown.

Gaels’ head coach Peter Huigenbos said the win was all the more special because some Gaels were playing injured.

“We had a few guys banged up and they played through some injuries and just didn’t give an inch. I’m just so happy to see us so committed against a very good Western team that wouldn’t stop coming at us,” he said.

“It’s very emotional.”

Huigenbos said the team was more disciplined in the second half.

“At halftime we just talked about being more disciplined and therefore getting more balls,” he said. “We were playing defence almost the entire half and we still came away with the lead.”

Queen’s was dominant on line-out plays throughout the game, stealing some of Western’s and maintaining possession of their own.

Huigenbos said the team had been working on line-outs all week.

“We work hard on it and the whole pack knows their role and gets the jumpers in the air. … It was great that we could dominate in that aspect today.”

Davies, whose eight points made the difference in the score, said it was great to have the crowd there.

“We love playing in front of a crowd,” he said. “They always boost us, especially when we’re down. … It’s a great feeling.”

Davies went two-for-four on conversions, and said scoring his first five minutes in helped loosen him up.

“After I got that one I settled down,” he said. “It’s a good feeling when it goes through those posts.”

The Gaels travel to Markham today for a 2 p.m. final. The team will face the Brock University Badgers, the only team they have lost to this season. The Badgers defeated the Gaels 26-7 in the regular season.

Potter said the team isn’t worried about its opposition.

“Our team, we approach every single game the exact same. We won’t change our mindset, we won’t change our preparations. … We’re just here to play rugby.”

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