Men’s rugby set for OUA final

Semifinal win over McMaster Marauders on Saturday at Kingston Field sends Gaels on path to Fletcher’s Field in Markham for third-straight OUA final

Gaels’ lock Ryan Kruyne drags a McMaster defender for a ride during Saturday’s 17-8 win at Kingston Field.
Gaels’ lock Ryan Kruyne drags a McMaster defender for a ride during Saturday’s 17-8 win at Kingston Field.
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Gaels scrum-half Andrew Kirk tries to find a path through McMaster’s defense.
Gaels scrum-half Andrew Kirk tries to find a path through McMaster’s defense.
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Eight-man Pat Richardson pushes off the challenge of McMaster flanker Keegan Selby.
Eight-man Pat Richardson pushes off the challenge of McMaster flanker Keegan Selby.
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Six sets of bleachers completely packed and standing-room only at Kingston Field could only mean one thing—it’s playoff time for rugby. The men’s team thanked their fans with a thrilling 17-8 semifinal win over the reigning OUA champions, the McMaster Marauders.

With the win, the Gaels advance to their third-straight OUA final. They will play the Western Mustangs in Markham on Saturday at Fletcher’s Field.

Until Saturday, the Gaels hadn’t beaten the Marauders in a playoff game in over a decade, the OUA only having began keeping records since 1999. It was the Marauders who beat the Gaels last year in the final to win their gold medal, a point head coach Peter Huigenbos said was present in the team’s mind before the kickoff.

“I don’t know when the last time was that we beat McMaster in a playoff game,” he said. “You always have that in the back of your head but you just go out and play rugby. The guys trusted each other and we’re really happy to beat a really strong and disciplined Mac team.”

During the regular season, the Gaels demolished the Marauders with a 59-5 win at Kingston Field.

Huigenbos said McMaster brought a different level of game for the semifinal.

“I was very impressed with the way Mac played,” he said. “They were a different team than the one that we faced and they presented a huge challenge for us today.”

McMaster came out of the gate hard, holding significant Gaels pressure in the first five minutes before pushing the game into the Tricolour end, scoring a penalty kick in the 10th minute to take a 3-0 lead. The Gaels responded 15 minutes later with a try from first-year scrum-half Liam Underwood. They didn’t look back from there, as Underwood added a second try early in the second half. Lock Ryan Kruyne added two conversions and a penalty to round out the Gaels’ scoring.

Huigenbos said the Gaels were concerned with dealing with the early pressure and taking their chances.

“We knew they were going to come out hard for the first 15-20 minutes and we’ve have to hold them the whole game, and we just weathered the storm,” he said. “In rugby you don’t have to score every five minutes, you have to score when you get the chance. … Liam did a great job of putting it down.”

Underwood said the emotion affected him even though he wasn’t at Queen’s when the Gaels fell to McMaster in last year’s final.

“It’s definitely a great feeling, it’s a big stage,” he said. “I don’t know how they felt but definitely, for sure, it’s the biggest game I’ve ever played in.”

Flanker Alistair Clark, who spent most of the season playing for the Ontario Blues, said the Gaels expected a different McMaster team than the one they hosted earlier in the year.

“Mac’s always been an awesome team and we never expect an easy game against them,” he said. “The last time was not a fluke because we played well but we just had a really good game. This is exactly what we expect out of them, a hard 80 minutes and we did a few things right at the right time to pull the win out.”

For a preview on the men’s rugby team’s Turner Trophy final against the Western Mustangs, please see Friday’s issue of the Journal.

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