Rugby runs over Western

Gaels advance to OUA Final against McMaster with semi-final win over Mustangs

Gaels’ flanker Alistair Clark tries to evade Western’s Joshua Campbell Saturday at Kingston Field. Queen’s won 19-8.
Gaels’ flanker Alistair Clark tries to evade Western’s Joshua Campbell Saturday at Kingston Field. Queen’s won 19-8.

For the ninth consecutive year, the men’s rugby team will be featured in an OUA medal game this coming weekend in Markham thanks to their 19-8 win over the Western Mustangs on Kingston Field Saturday. The Gaels will face the McMaster Marauders in the gold-medal clash who beat out the defending champion Brock Badgers in the other semi-final.

Queen’s clashed with Western in London earlier in the season, coming away with a 12-12 draw. Both of Western’s tries in that game had come while the Gaels had a man in the sin-bin, suggesting the way forward in the semi-final matchup would begin with tight discipline.

The game started on a high for the Gaels. Eight minutes from the opening kickoff, wing Chris Barrett intercepted a wayward Western pass on the Queen’s five metre line and ran the entire field to open the scoring with a try. Soon after that, lock Tom Binczyk scored a try off a scramble on the Western goal line. As if to exert their dominance in the first half, centre Zach Pancer scored a try off a passing play that had the ball wheeled the width of the field. A few minutes after that, Western scored its first points of the game, a penalty which brought the score to 19-3 going into the half.

The Mustangs came out strong in the second half, forcing the Gaels deep into the Tricolour end. Although Western managed to notch one try relatively early on, Queen’s defensive ranks held the line and kept Western off the score sheet for the rest of the game.

Western played a game similar to the one earlier in the season, one that was physical and aggressive. But, this time around, Queen’s didn’t react. Though they took penalties over the course of the game, the Gaels played gentlemanly rugby, taking no unnecessary penalties and giving Western no gifts.

Barrett, who also converted two tries for a total of nine points on the day, said the game was a strong success for the rugby team.

“We knew they were going to come out hard and we were ready for them,” he said. “We wanted to make them work for everything. We kept our head on our shoulders and didn’t take stupid penalties.”

As for the team sitting back in the second half, Barrett said it wasn’t part of the game plan, and would be something to work on for the final.

“It wasn’t our intention,” he said. “We tried to play well but we couldn’t get it going. … We’ve got to get deeper. We couldn’t move the ball as well as we can.”Head coach Peter Huigenbos said although Western pressed the Gaels in the second half, the team played well.

“It was a good rugby game,” he said. “I thought Western came back in the second half and showed a lot of pride. They threw everything at us for 40 minutes, but our boys stepped up defensively and decided that they’re weren’t going to give up this game.”

Huigenbos said the team will have to improve their second-half play for the final, though.

“We lost focus offensively in the second half,” he said. “We felt that the first half was brilliant, the offence was clicking. In the second half we were happy to play defence and shut them down. We’re going to want to play more focused offense for 80 minutes next week.”

The rugby team also earned several individual OUA awards Thursday. Team captain Alistair Clark was named the East Division’s most valuable player, Scott Kyle was named the division’s rookie of the year and Huigenbos was selected as the division’s coach of the year. Clark, Tom Binczyk, Graeme Dibden, Zac Pancer, Pat Richardson and Tim Richardson were all selected as East Division all-stars.

The Gaels will face McMaster for the second time this season in the final Saturday. Huigenbos said his side will concentrate on the defensive strength they displayed against Western to beat their upcoming opponent for the gold medal.

“They’re a very big, well-drilled side,” he said. “We’re preparing for a tight battle with some really strong athletes. We’ll be preparing with defence, they’ll be more polished with the ball this time around so we’ll have to step up our game accordingly.”

For the past three seasons, Brock has met and beaten Queen’s in a medal game. McMaster beat the Badgers to gain entrance to the final against the Gaels, which Huigenbos said he was happy about.

“It’s certainly nice to see a different opponent at the end of the year,” he said. “We’ve faced Brock three years in a row so it’s nice to see a change, but it’s not a relief. [McMaster] is a strong opponent and we’d be in tight against them or Brock.”

Flanker Alistair Clark, who serves as the team’s captain, said the Gaels are preparing to face the Marauders in the same way that they prepare for any other team.

“So far this week we’ve taken it the same as regular training,” he said. “We’re more focused on the way we play our game, to make sure we do what we want to do. The adjustments for McMaster are small. If we can get out there and impose our will, we’ll be fine.”

Clark, too, said he didn’t feel a sense of relief in facing McMaster over Brock this weekend, but a sense of anticipation in pitting themselves against the best in the OUA.

“Every team you meet in the last few games is going to be really, really good,” he said. “We just want to play the best team out there. They beat Brock, they’re the best team, we want to play them.”

The final will be played in Markham. A fan bus will be leaving from the PEC Saturday morning. Students can buy bus tickets at the PEC for $15.

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