Bring on Guelph: Women’s rugby going to OUA Championships

Gaels all over Brock in 74-3 semi-finals victory

Gillian Reason breaks up the field.

With their win over the Brock Badgers, the Queen’s Gaels will play the Guelph Gryphons at home on Friday, Oct. 18 for the OUA Championship Title.

The semi-final victory also ensures Queen’s a spot at the U SPORTS National Championships in Ottawa. The Gryphons have long had Queen’s number, beating them in the OUA Finals for the past two years, and in the semis the year before that. 

“We wouldn’t want it any other way. They are a very good squad … I don’t know if you’ve ever watched wrestling, but Ric Flair used to say, ‘To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.’ And so [Guelph] is who we want.”

That was Head Coach Dan Valley, exuberant after the Gaels’ 74-3 drubbing of the Brock Badgers, speaking to The Journal about Queen’s impending matchup against Guelph.

This year, the script seems to have flipped—the Gaels smashed Guelph in their only meeting, 54-19. Still, that game represented the smallest margin of victory for Queen’s this season, and Valley knows his Gaels won’t be able to sleepwalk through the finals.

“When we reload and go to work on Monday, we have one focus and one focus only, and that’s the OUA Championship.”

At Nixon Field, the women dominated the Badgers on every front. The two young boys in charge of changing the numbers on the scoreboard were kept busy, as a balanced Queen’s attack scored 12 tries. 

Brock showed a lot of heart resisting the Queen’s onslaught, but they were simply overwhelmed from the opening whistle by the amount of firepower the Gaels boast.

The big names started things off for Queen’s—Sophie de Goede (twice), Rachel Hickson, Lizzie Gibson, and McKinley Hunt scored in the first stanza to give the women a comfortable 31-0 lead at halftime.

Hickson, an All-Canadian, showed off her blazing speed right before the half, closing a massive gap between herself and a streaking Badger for a try-saving tackle that preserved the Gaels’ shut-out.

Hickson picked up where she left off, scoring the first try of the second half on a poor kick out of the Badgers’ try-zone. Shortly thereafter, Maddy Kushner was the beneficiary of some good passing and scored her first try of the evening.

Brock’s Taylor Knezevich scored a penalty kick in the 57th minute to put the Badgers on the board, which felt like a just reward for the positivity and good sportsmanship they displayed all night.

However, Queen’s redoubled their efforts—after the penalty kick, Jaden Walker and Maggie Banks each scored, and then Hickson and Siobahn Sheerin both scored on 50+ yard runs.

Their relentlessness ended up taking a toll on the visiting team. 

With the Badgers’ bus already warming up to take them back to St. Catharines, it was reported that some Brock players were overheard asking the touch judge (a sideline referee) if he could end the game with eight minutes left to play. 

Jaden Walker ran in one more try off a scrum to close things out. Queen’s 74, Brock 3.

Queen’s prop play was outstanding, and they virtually never lost a ruck. Between the stalwart effort from the forwards and the explosive play of the backs, Queen’s played sensational yet controlled and intelligent rugby.

Valley is very proud that the championship game will be held at Nixon.

“I think it’s a reflection of the work that our athletes have done to earn that right [to a homefield advantage]... We’ve been knocking off our to do list month by month, year by year, and this is, in a lot of ways, the culmination of that work.”

But even in the warm afterglow of victory, secure in the knowledge that Queen’s is guaranteed a berth at the nationals, Valley isn’t letting himself lose sight of the task at hand.

“[Guelph will be] reloaded and they’re going to show up here pretty pissed off,” said Valley after the game. “That’s exciting for us, we’re really looking forward to that challenge.”

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