Glory in Guelph

Queen’s ekes out 24-23 win for fourth straight OUA men’s rugby title

After being down 15-7 at half, Queen’s responded with a strong final 40 minutes in the win.
After being down 15-7 at half, Queen’s responded with a strong final 40 minutes in the win.
Supplied by Karyn Stepien

With only a 24-23 lead against the Guelph Gryphons, the men’s rugby team gathered around their goalposts in the final moments of the OUA final, their season on the line. 

In the waning moments of the contest, the Gryphons registered a try, knocking down the Gaels’ lead to one point.

If the Gryphons were successful in their conversion kick it would flip the script, putting the Gaels down 25-24.

“It was pretty quiet in that huddle,” Queen’s flanker Alex Colborne said. 

After Guelph’s attempt missed wide right, the Gaels held on for the remaining moments to capture their fourth OUA title in a row. 

“You can only control so much of the game,” Colborne said. “You can prepare as much as you like, and the season comes down to that one play.”

Colborne had nine points on the day for the Gaels. Kai Lloyd led the team in scoring with 10 points via two tries, while OUA MVP Lucas Rumball picked up a try of his own.

Down 15-7 at halftime, Colborne praised his team’s attempts to control the game. 

 “We did a really good job of forcing [Guelph] to make mistakes,” he said. “You give everything you can to the team and you just hope the other 23 guys around you are doing the same.” 

Photo Supplied by Karyn Stepien

The Gaels finished the season with nine straight victories, after losing on the same pitch by a 35-28 in their opening game of the year. Despite intense preparation, the coaching staff knew it was up to the players to avenge their earlier loss and win the title.

“They told us the fate’s in our hands,” Colborne said. “They’re not the ones on the pitch.”

Head coach Gary Gilks said the initial defeat motivated the players to come back and change the results this time around. 

“Losing our first regular season game to Guelph really helped set the tone for the rest of the season,” Gilks said. “The journey to the playoffs would be a difficult one, and each week we took positive steps forward, building momentum and confidence in our athletes.”

Though they came into the year with three straight titles, a large portion of the team was made up of first-time starters, making this year’s title a special one.

“We lost a lot of vets last year and needed to work hard to find the right athlete to fit the roles that would best help our team grow.”

Gilks added that the tight-knit nature of the club helped them come out on top.

“The athletes really built a team attitude, and this was critical when facing endless pressure situations in the final game.” “Our coaching staff was incredible all year, constantly being innovative and intelligently adapting to many hurdles on and off the field,” he said. 

“We started building the foundation in August,” he said. “With each week that passed we added another layer until we had the structure that we were confident would perform well under pressure.”

Mixed in with all the drama, Gilks lauded his team again for their ability to stay calm under extreme physical pressure. 

“Not many people can understand the intense physicality of a rugby final,” he said. “Every one of them played through so much pain, exhausted physically, but never once backing down from the challenge to defend the title.”

Despite multiple championships, Gilks hasn’t lost the joy of winning a title.  

“These are the years you remember the most because all of us grew together to create something special that will last a lifetime.” 

“It was a make-or-break year for us,” the third-year captain Rumball said. “We came in knowing every point counted, every play counted, every hit counted.”

The past three titles were decided by nine, 11, and 30 points, but the single-point  victory was a unique experience for the Gaels. 

“It was really hard fought,” Rumball said. “The last few years we had always been in control heading into the final moments, but this year, it went right down to the end. It was surreal.”

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