Men’s rugby win 24th Turner Trophy

Gaels dominate Guelph 48-10 in championship game, winning streak extends to 20

The men's rugby team have won back-to-back OUA championships.
The men's rugby team have won back-to-back OUA championships.
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After a perfect season for the men’s rugby team, the Turner Trophy is staying home.

On Sunday, the Gaels (10-0) won their 24th OUA championship after a commanding 48-10 win over the Guelph Gryphons (8-2). The previous seven OUA finals have featured Queen’s against Guelph, the former winning six.

The Gaels continued to prove thier worth among the league's best, capping their 2018-19 season with an undefeated record—including three convincing playoff wins. Currently, the team’s winning streak is 20 matches long, dating back to 2016.

This season’s championship run marks the team's 20th straight OUA playoff appearance.

Overall, Sunday’s game went even better than head coach Dave Butcher expected—especially the first half.

“It was without a doubt the best 40 minutes I’ve seen the team play this year,” Butcher told The Journal in an interview. “I genuinely can’t remember one error we made in the first half.”

By halftime, the Gaels led by a score of 31-0.

The half time break served the Gryphons well, allowing them to catch their bearings and score two tries in the first fifteen minutes of the second 40 minutes. But the Gaels’ defense didn’t waver and tacked on 17 more points in the second half to win by a hefty margin of 38.

“We defended heroically in a lot of [those] situations, got the ball back, and put a massive amount of pressure back on Guelph,” Butcher said of his team’s second-half performance. “I thought it was an incredible performance.”

The Gaels’ worst defensive showing this season came in early September during a 55-22 win against the Laurier Golden Hawks—it was the only time they conceded 20 or more points on the year. On average, the team suffered but 10 points per match while scoring 69 during the regular season and playoffs.

For their strong play this year, five Gaels were awarded OUA all-star status last week—Patrick Lynott, Lachlan Devir, Nicholas De Lallo, Brendan Blaikie, and Tristan Ruse.

Alongside the all-stars, Alex Pipchuk was awarded the Trillium Award—given to a well-rounded player who demonstrates athleticism, strong work ethic, and good sportsmanship. Pipchuk led the team’s fundraising for their annual CIBC Run for the Cure, wherein they raised $30,000—more than any other Queen’s varsity team this year. 

To round out Queen’s recognition in the OUA, Butcher was also named OUA Coach of the Year, his first in his two-year career leading the team. The Gaels are yet to lose a match since the head coach’s appointment in the summer of 2017.

“It’s really special when you get recognized by people that you respect,” Butcher said of receiving the award.

As much as it is an individual accomplishment, Butcher said the award is indicative of his team’s quality, not just his own.

“I wouldn’t get any awards if the team [wasn't] doing well,” he said. “For me, it’s a complete ratification of how well the boys have done this year.”

Up next, the Gaels will be travelling to Victoria, B.C. to compete in the second annual Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championships from Nov. 21 to 25.

Last year, the Gaels missed the inaugural championships, hosted by Guelph, because it was held too close to the OUA final and the team wasn’t physically prepared for rigorous play.

This year, however, Queen's will have two whole weeks to recover from the OUA playoffs.

At the championships, the Gaels will encounter entirely unfamiliar teams. Butcher noted west-coast teams will be especially competitive. Last season, the University of British Columbia won the national championship.

“We know what the other teams in the OUA have got, and we’ve played against them a number of times, so to play teams that we’ve never seen, never played before—I think it’s really exciting,” Butcher said.

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