Learning on the west coast

Both rugby squads compete in 7s national championship

Men’s rugby went 2-1 in the round robin in BC.
Men’s rugby went 2-1 in the round robin in BC.
Supplied By Karyn Stephen
Sadie Stephenson (left) was one of the Gaels’ biggest stars at the national tournament.
Sadie Stephenson (left) was one of the Gaels’ biggest stars at the national tournament.
Journal File Photo

It’s not every year a team has a second chance at winning hardware. But for Queen’s rugby’s men’s and women’s sides, the opportunity came at the 2016 National University 7s rugby championships in BC.

The women’s rugby team looked to avenge November’s second-place finish at the CIS Championship on Nixon Field, while the men sought to build on their OUA title win at the 15s level. Because 7s is very much a different style of rugby — one that neither Queen’s team focuses on for much of the year — player development became the main focus of the trip.

After finishing 2-1 in round robin play, the women’s team was pinned against Calgary in the quarterfinal. A 20-5 loss put them in a consolation final against the University of Victoria, where they would again fall, this time 30-0.

The men’s team, meanwhile, also went 2-1 in round robin play, before also finishing seventh after falling out in the men’s plate semi-final.

Despite a seventh place finish — an improvement from last year’s ninth — women’s co-captain Erin Geddes said the team took a lot from playing 7s. With games lasting only 14 minutes at the tournament, Geddes believes it will help the team with developing quicker starts next year.

“You have to give everything you have in those 14 minutes and you can’t waste time on slowly getting your head in the game — you have to be ready when the whistle goes.”

“In 7s you have to learn to have that quick decision making within plays,” Geddes said. “When you bring it over to 15s you’re just increasing the intensity of the game.”

However, for all the games’ difference, first-year Sadie Stephenson believes that in-game situations rather than practice help build team chemistry.

Even though a game like 7s is different, you are still using the mind and body in the same way,” Stephenson said. “A big thing in rugby is when you have to trust each other and to be aware of who you are playing with — the connection keeps building up when you play.”

With six of 12 women’s players in their first year, the tournament was a learning experience for the young Gaels. 

For Stephenson, the weekend brought the team even closer. 

“I didn’t know I could get more bonded with these girls, but just hanging out and travelling was a whole new experience and it brings you that much closer,” she said.

In their time off the field, the women’s team explored downtown Vancouver, and even went to watch Canada play at an International 7s rugby tournament at BC Place. During this downtime, the team also hung out with other university teams. For Stephenson, it showed her just how big the Canadian rugby community is.

“It is always pretty awesome to meet people who have the same interest and love for the game,” she said. “Rugby is one of those sports that is really community-based, so being able to hang out with them at night and forget what happened on the field … is pretty cool.

Meanwhile, the men’s team was led by veterans such as Kai Lloyd and Lucas Rumball, who both ranked among the tournament’s top scorers with three and two tries, respectively. 

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