Reigning champs crush season opener

Spurred by a veteran’s massive performance, Gaels blank Laurier 53-0

Men’s rugby opened the OUA campaign with a shutdown performance on the road.

The Gaels shut out the Laurier Golden Hawks 53-0 on Saturday, a dominant start in their attempt to win three Ontario championships in as many years. Full-back David Worsley starred on the afternoon, scoring three tries to go along with four conversions.

In addition to Worsley’s production, the Gaels were led offensively by a few other players. Centre Jeffrey MacDonald opened the scoring with a try, while wing Kainoa Lloyd racked up a pair of his own. Forward Tommy Kirkham also scored in the game.

Head coach Gary Gilks was pleased with his team’s offensive performance, but also noted the other half of the scoreboard.

“It speaks for itself when you win a game 53-0,” he said. “You’ve got to be proud of the defence.”

And while Gilks was proud of the Gaels’ efforts in the first step of their title defence, he knows there’s still a long way to go in the season.

“That’s not even the focus right now,” he said about the possibility of returning to a championship game. “We never talk about it during training camp or during practice. Every week we’re looking to improve on something and place our focus on that instead.”

Gilks saw his team’s efficiency on lineouts and success on plays exiting the defensive zone as two of the team’s strengths that they’d been working hard on in practice.

“Those were two positives that we had been pushing while training,” Gilks said. “We’ll focus on something different week to week.”

While this marks Gilks’ first win as head coach for Queen’s, he’s far from inexperienced. Gilks has spent time as an assistant coach for both the Gaels men’s and women’s teams, in addition to a four-year stint as an assistant and head coach for the RMC men’s team.

The victory was certainly a strong start to the year, but history is against the Gaels’ chances to three-peat. No team has won three consecutive OUA men’s rugby titles since Queen’s won four from 1993-1996, when Gilks was an assistant coach.

Avoiding complacency throughout the season, Gilks said, is a challenge the Gaels have the experience to evade.

“We have several players who have played at a very high level,” he said. “We believe that they will be able to maintain maturity during the year and be leaders. Even some of the other athletes who haven’t played at as high a level, we’re confident they’ll be able to perform well.”

Top challengers this season for the Gaels include the Western Mustangs, whom Queen’s has beaten in each of the past two OUA championship games, as well as the perennially strong Guelph Gryphons. Queen’s hosts Guelph on Oct. 4 and welcomes the Mustangs to town two weeks later.

The Gaels’ home opener is this Saturday at 1 p.m. against cross-town rivals RMC at Nixon Field.

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