Men’s rugby still undefeated

Gaels have been bested only once in regular season action since 2007, now looking for gold

Gaels’ winger Zach Pancer breaks through three Golden Hawks defenders to score the 12th Tricolour try of Saturday’s 74-8 romp over Wilfred Laurier.
Gaels’ winger Zach Pancer breaks through three Golden Hawks defenders to score the 12th Tricolour try of Saturday’s 74-8 romp over Wilfred Laurier.

Most sports teams would view a second-straight undefeated as cause for celebration.

But men’s rugby head coach Peter Huigenbos said his team’s approaching theirs with cautious optimism.

“To come away with eight wins from eight games is something special, but while we appreciate that right now, we need to put it behind us because it’s a new season once we hit the playoffs.”

The Gaels rounded off another perfect season on Saturday with a convincing 74-8 win over the Wilfred Laurier Golden Hawks, stretching their undefeated streak to 16 games over two years.

With the league’s restructuring, the playoffs have changed. This year, for the first time ever, the first-seed Gaels and second-seed Western Mustangs have a quarter-final bye.

Huigenbos said two weeks without a game will help his team.

“I think it treats us well, not from a recovery or injury-management point of view but just so that the guys can get some schoolwork done and get their midterms in next week,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest benefit of the bye and I’m not worried about it from a rugby standpoint at all.”

Scoring against the Golden Hawks came from across the board for the Gaels. Openside flanker Alistair Clark, outside centre Chris Barrett, inside centre Graeme Dibden, hooker Mason Curtis, eight-man Pat Richardson, inside centre Graeme Whyte, flanker Tim Richardson, Matt Kelly and winger Zach Pancer all scored a try.

Scrum-half Liam Underwood recorded two tries and two conversions and flanker Ryan Kruyne recorded five conversions of his own.

Clark, who started his first game of the season after playing to a bronze in the Americas Rugby Championship with the Ontario Blues, said the team’s depth pushes everyone.

“The whole club, with 120 guys, is pushing for the gold medal together. It’s not just the first team, it’s teams one through six we have this year,” he said. “You know the guy playing in front of you is working as hard as he can and when you get on the field, the guy who comes off knows there’s not going to be a let-up.”

Clark said coming out strong against Laurier was key.

“We knew Laurier was a good team. They had a bunch of good scores this year, so we wanted to have a good start on them and keep going for the full game with that, and we did that.”

Curtis, who scored his first regular-season try of his four-year university career, said the win allowed them to identify some negative aspects in their game and would give them something to work on approaching the semi-final in two weeks.

“Games like this you want to take something positive and something negative, then work on the negative aspects for the next few weeks,” he said. “We need to work on our counter-rucking and set pieces going into the semi.”

Going into the semifinal, Curtis said there was no team the Gaels wouldn’t want -to see.

“We’ll take on anybody.”

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