Men's rugby wins Turner Cup

Gaels finally win the biggest prize in nail-biting OUA final against Mustangs

Scrum-half Liam Underwood pushes through a Mustang tackle during the men's rugby team's 23-19 Turner Trophy victory at Fletcher's Field on Saturday.
Scrum-half Liam Underwood pushes through a Mustang tackle during the men's rugby team's 23-19 Turner Trophy victory at Fletcher's Field on Saturday.
The OUA champion Queen's Gaels show off their hard-earned trophy and banner.
The OUA champion Queen's Gaels show off their hard-earned trophy and banner.

Saturday, Nov. 14, 9:30 p.m.

MARKHAM, ONT. – This morning, the men’s rugby team was going into its third-straight OUA Final not having won the elusive Turner Trophy since 2001. Tonight, the team can call itself the OUA champion after a tight 23-19 win over the Western Mustangs at Fletcher’s Field in Markham this afternoon.

The jam-packed stands reverberated as both teams had considerable support in the stands. It was certainly a game for spectators with five tries and a game that was on the line right down to the final whistle.

“I’m really proud of the boys and what they accomplished,” head coach Peter Huigenbos said. “For how many years they’ve worked at it and just to have a core nucleus of fourth and fifth-year guys that have worked harder every day to get this win. I’m just so happy and proud for the whole team.”

The game was a tenuous one for the Gaels. They started on their heels as Western scored an early try to take the lead. The Gaels continued to trail, as first-half tries from wingers Scott Kyle and Zach Pancer were matched by Western.

The second-half didn’t start as planned for the Gaels either, as the Mustangs built on their lead with a try within five minutes of the whistle.

Lock Ryan Kruyne began the Gaels’ ascent with a penalty goal in the 53rd minute, bringing some life to his team’s flat offence. Eight-man Pat Richardson touched down a try four minutes later to bring the Gaels to within one point, and Chris Barrett scored the winning try with less than 20 minutes left, giving Queen’s a four-point lead.

Huigenbos said the importance of Kruyne’s penalty conversion can’t be understated.

“We knew at that point that ‘alright, it’s go time,’” he said. “Our backs came alive and punched in two tries in the second half that put the game over the top for us. Ryan’s led us all year and for him slotting that 40-metre penalty goal was a catalyst to the comeback.”

Western didn’t go down without a fight, though. They spent the remaining minutes of the game hammering away at the Gaels defence, spending much of their time within the Gaels five-metre area. The pressure went right to the final whistle, when flanker Alistair Clark jumped on the ball two feet away from the goal line to get a whistle during injury time and end the game.

Huigenbos said the moment was so perfect, it could have been scripted.

“Western has a great pack and they pounded away at the goal line a couple of times late in the second half. Our forwards met the challenge and kept taking them back and taking them back,” he said. “Of all people, it was Alistair Clark who held up the ball at the end and made sure we got the whistle and you couldn’t have written it any other way. Four straight years of playing varsity rugby here at Queen’s, to make the defining play of the match here in the final, you couldn’t write it much better”

Barrett said the feeling of finally winning after losing two straight finals was indescribable.

“It hasn’t hit me yet, still shock but it’s coming,” he said. “It’s amazing, especially with everyone graduating and so many veterans, it was amazing to get it done at last.”

Clark, who jumped on the ball to end the game, is bringing to an end a four-year stay at the cusp of Queen’s men’s rugby. He said the Gaels sent a message with their defensive stop.

“It was just all of us as a team saying ‘You’re not going to take this away from us,” because it’s that simple on the goal line. Either they score or we stop them. We just decided we were going to stop them.”

Clark said the win was the best possible way to end his time as a Gael.

“I’m the happiest I can imagine being,” he said. “It’s been four years in the making and we’ve just worked so hard all year and this year I was coming up with guys I’d played with since first year. It’s such a tight-knit group and we just wanted it so bad and it showed on the field. No one was going to be able to take it away from us.”

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