International match hardly friendly

Gaels beat Ulster in hotly contested physical battle Saturday, game ends in a fist fight

Gaels’ locks Tom Binczyk (centre) and Shane Baddeley (left) take down an Ulster player Saturday at Kingston Field.
Gaels’ locks Tom Binczyk (centre) and Shane Baddeley (left) take down an Ulster player Saturday at Kingston Field.
Credit: 
Tracy Zhang

After leaving Fleming College and the Trent Excalibur teams bruised and shaking, the University of Ulster at Coleraine ended its exhibition tour of Canada on Saturday with a 29-5 loss to the Queen’s Gaels at Kingston Field. The game was played with passion and intensity from both teams and ended early when both sides got into a fist fight 20 minutes from the final whistle.

The game started on a series of negatives for the Gaels, with Ulster scoring its first try within the first two minutes and the game’s intensity claimed its first victim nine minutes in: Gaels’ hooker Mason Curtis was left motionless on the field after a hit and was taken to hospital by ambulance.

Queen’s rallied around their loss, though, and took the play to Ulster. Before the end of the first half, Gaels Tom Binczyk, Chris Barrett and Graham Watt scored a try each for a combined 15 points, and Ryan Kruyne converted twice and added a penalty for seven

more points.

Ulster came out strong again in the second half, and while they managed to hold the play mostly in the Gaels’ 22-yard box, Queen’s persevered and pushed Ulster back to their own touchline. The Gaels’ labour was rewarded when wing Michael Wong put in a beautiful chip kick for himself, outjumped Ulster’s second rows to retain possession and then passed off to captain Alistair Cook for the Gaels’ fourth try to the pleasure of the assembled masses. Graham Watt capped off the day with the Gaels’ fifth try.

Although this was a friendly game, there was no room for the faint of heart as both sides came out looking for blood. Cries of “Smash them, lads!” were heard before the opening kickoff from both teams, and those comments were reiterated in more offensive language throughout the match. Gaels’ hooker Tom Jilek, who was brought in to replace Mason Curtis after playing a full game for the second team in their earlier match against the Peterborough Pagans, said the level of passion on the field didn’t surprise him.

“We knew both teams were amped,” he said. “We knew they came for a reason and they came to win. In those situations you need to keep your cool, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.”

Jilek said he was happy with the way the Gaels performed in the face of a difficult situation.

“It was a tough game from the start,” he said. “They scored a try straight away but we came back and were able to score often.”

As for the loss of Curtis, Jilek said the team needed to stay focused on the task at hand.

“He’s a big part of our team and he gets everyone riled up,” he said. “It was important that we got everyone together and pumped.”

Men’s rugby head coach Peter Huigenbos said that the goal of the friendly fixtures was to improve the side.

“You need to play these games to get better, that’s why Ulster’s on tour and that’s why we welcomed them with open arms,” he said. “They took it seriously and that’s what we wanted. We expected them to be strong up front and they didn’t disappoint. We wanted to be tested, we were definitely tested today.”

Although Ulster took Fleming College and the Trent Excalibur to the cleaners in their matches, winning 58-7 and 64-3, respectively, Head coach Brett Campbell said his side had no assumptions of victory coming into the match against Queen’s.

“We weren’t with illusions,” he said. “We knew they were a well-organized side. We knew it would be the hardest game we play. Fleming and Trent were warm ups, we knew this would be the hardest. Trent and Fleming are not in the same league, they’d be done in five minutes. There’d be very little point in [Queen’s] playing those teams.”

As for the passion in the game, Campbell said he wasn’t

surprised either.

“I’ve never seen a game that had no passion.”

Huigenbos said yesterday Curtis was out of hospital before the game ended. He said he’s unsure when Curtis will be able to return to play.

“We’ll wait and see. Hopefully he can make a speedy return to the squad.”

The Gaels continue their regular season on the road Saturday in London against the 2-0 Western Mustangs.

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