Women’s rugby end season at U Sports championships

Gaels go 1-2 at national championships in Nova Scotia, finish sixth in the country

Women’s rugby finished their season ranked sixth in Canada.
Women’s rugby finished their season ranked sixth in Canada.
Credit: 
Supplied by Shawn MacDonald
After winning only one of three matches, the women’s rugby team closed their season with a sixth-place finish at the U Sports national championships.
 
On Thursday, the opening day of the competition, Queen’s dropped their first round match to eventual champions, the St. Francis Xavier X-Women. Despite Queen’s beating the X-Women twice in exhibition games earlier this season, they came up short 42-21.
 
Second-year Head Coach Dan Valley described St. FX—tournament champions, their fifth title in nine years—to have had a “close to a perfect game” against his team. 
 
“When we beat [St. FX] in October, they knew coming into this tournament that if they ever saw us again, their job was to starve us of possession and keep the ball—they knew we were dangerous if we had it,” Valley said. 
 
“On our side of things, you can boil it back down to four or five decisions that led us to not scoring, and [St. FX] did a really nice job coming back to the idea of capitalizing on opportunities that other teams present.”
 
In the consolation semi-final, the Gaels played the Calgary Dinos—a familiar opponent after the latter beat Queen’s in last season’s semi-final 41-5. This year, though, the Gaels got the better of Calgary and won 29-10. After scoring all 29 of their points by halftime, the Gaels spent the second half playing defensively, giving up two tries in the last 35 minutes.
 
Valley said his team’s first half performance was the most complete half they put together all year. 
 
“We were very well disciplined at the point of contact, we were very aggressive and very gritty … and that’s the style of rugby that we are working towards playing,” he said, adding his players went into the game hoping to make a statement. 
 
“The ask was never for us to go in and be perfect,” Valley said of how he told his team to approach their consolation match. “Our ask wasn’t to have people say, ‘Wow, that Queen’s tem is the most skilled of the two teams on the field.’ It was to have people say, ‘Wow, that Queen’s team is the hardest of the two teams on the field—the most physically ready for a fight.’”
 
To close off the weekend, the Gaels played one last match against the Victoria Vikes on Sunday morning. The Vikes came out on top and finished Queen’s season 24-15. 
 
According to Valley, the Gaels let their fundamentals slip away in the game. 
 
“I thought we played well enough to win, but I don’t think we played anywhere close to the standard of rugby that we’re capable of playing,” he said. 
 
Reflecting on the tournament, Valley said his team knew what type of quality they were up against.
 
“We were walking into a tournament with the best programs in the country. When you get into an environment like that, it’s not about being perfect, but [about] capitalizing on the mistakes that other programs make.”
 
With the season drawn to a close, the Gaels have a few weeks off before they begin their offseason training.
 
The team’s focus will shift to the weight room in hopes of improving and opening next season strong. The Gaels know they can compete with the best in the country—now it’s about maintaining their momentum for next year’s 
national championships.
 
“We’ve seen what the best of the country have to offer, and I don’t think there’s a doubt in anyone’s mind that we have it in us to genuinely be the best program in the country,” Valley said.
 
“[N]ow, we reload, we reflect, and we put ourselves in a position to go get it.”
 

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