Saturday’s a rugby day for Gaels

Queen’s rugby teams will face the only opponents that defeated them during last regular season.

The men’s team has allowed just 12 points against in two games.
The men’s team has allowed just 12 points against in two games.
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The women rank second in the OUA with 135 points scored.
The women rank second in the OUA with 135 points scored.
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Men

The Gaels are facing Western this Saturday, after 11 months to ponder last year’s devastating 21-15 loss in the OUA final.

This season’s matchup will feature the two best defences in the OUA. Queen’s has allowed the fewest points with 12, while Western trails close behind with 15.

Queen’s is hoping to deal the Mustangs their second loss in as many games, after Western fell 12-5 to Guelph last Friday.

The last time the Mustangs lost two games in one season was in 2008, when they finished with a record of 4-2-1.

Queen’s has played exceptionally sharp on the defensive end in their first two games of the season, boding well for another deep run into the playoffs.

After a 33-12 season-opening victory against McMaster, a team that placed third in last year’s OUA championship, the Gaels have maintained their defensive prowess.

Western has started the season at 1-1, and is looking to leave the Gaels with a familiar bitter taste. The Mustangs started the season with a decimating 40-3 win against Waterloo, but fell short to Guelph a week later.

Saturday’s game will be a clash between some of the biggest names in the OUA. Queen’s boasted five OUA All-Stars in 2011: Gaels captain Dan Moor, centre George Gleeson, flanker Matt Kelly, lock Myles Dingwall and fly-half Liam Underwood, who led the OUA in points last season.

The Mustangs featured six All-Stars in Gareth Dyer, Andrew Crow, Dave Jacks, Rory Tomlinson, Spencer Barret and Mike Penczak.

Although Dyer and Crow have departed, the Mustangs remain an undeniable threat in the OUA with the core they have intact.

Due to commitments with the Ontario Blues, Underwood won’t play on Saturday. The Mustangs could benefit, but only slightly. The Queen’s program consists of seven teams and around 100 players, all hoping to fill necessary voids.

The club, under head coach Peter Huigenbos, is the deepest in the OUA and the least likely to suffer from roster rotations. Having played the first two games at fly half, fifth-year Brendan McGovern is the likely replacement for Underwood.

Though it may be too early in the season for this game to draw any significant conclusions, both teams relish the opportunity to make their own statement. The winner will have the inside track on home field advantage throughout the OUA playoffs.

- Adrian Smith

Women

The Queen’s women’s rugby team is preparing for the biggest game of the 2012 regular season.

On Saturday, the Gaels will take on the McMaster Marauders in a game that will likely decide both teams’ chances of qualifying for the national championships in November. The nationally fifth-ranked Gaels team enters the match at 3-0, including a shutout of the Brock Badgers in the season opener.

Ninth-ranked McMaster owns a 2-1 record after a 53-8 loss to the powerhouse Guelph Gryphons.

Despite the Gaels’ superior record, the game is truly a do-or-die affair. Both Queen’s and McMaster are extremely unlikely to lose any of their remaining regular season matches.

Based on the OUA’s tiebreak rules, the winner of Saturday’s game will almost certainly win the Russell (East) Division.

Guelph, winners of the last four OUA championships, is likely to win the Shields (West) Division. The Gaels are perhaps stronger than they were last year, but their best chance to qualify for the CIS championships is to avoid playing the Gryphons until the OUA final. Both teams in the final automatically qualify for nationals.

Last season was a prime example of the importance of beating McMaster and winning the division. After losing 5-3 to the Marauders and finishing second in the East, Queen’s drew Guelph in the conference semi-finals.

The results weren’t pretty for the Gaels, who were shut out 50-0.

The Gaels will be out for revenge this year. They own one of the top offenses in the country, having posted 135 points in three games.

First-year centre Nadia Popov and third-year lock Bronwyn Corrigan are currently tied for second in OUA scoring, with 34 points apiece.

Corrigan and Popov will need to continue their stellar play against McMaster, with two of the Gaels’ key players sidelined.

Outside centre Mel Judges and second row player Gillian Pegg are both likely to miss the rest of the season, meaning bench players will have to step up to fill the void.

Based on the teams’ history, a low-scoring and evenly matched game can be expected. Queen’s defeated McMaster 15-14 in 2010, clinching first place in the Russell Division and eventually reaching the OUA final.

Queen’s should look to score early and carry the play in the first half. With both the previous years’ contest being low-scoring affairs, it’s safe to assume this year will be no different. Relying on a late game rally cannot be an option.

- Josh Burton

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