Weather can’t stop Gaels

Men’s rugby makes mark on playoffs with win over Varsity Blues

Gaels’ inside centre Ryan MacLeod runs through a group of Varsity Blues.
Gaels’ inside centre Ryan MacLeod runs through a group of Varsity Blues.

The men’s rugby team kicked off its OUA championship bid in a fine manner on Saturday afternoon, with a 70-3 thumping of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues on the windswept and rain-swept pitch of Richardson Stadium.

The playing conditions were incredibly difficult, with winds gusting up to 46 kilometres per hour at the time of kickoff and three inches of standing water in the try zones during the game.

Nevertheless, the Gaels prevailed, with tries coming from Calum Rasmay, Chris Barrett, Colin Alexander, Tim Richardson, Graeme Whyte and Scott Kyle. As in their first match against the Varsity Blues, on Sept. 6, Toronto’s only points came from a

penalty kick.

Head coach Peter Huigenbos said both teams performed well, given the weather.

“I thought both teams had a lot of fun,” he said. “The weather was a major factor in the approach of both teams. Our boys moved the ball around well through the hands considering the weather.”

The win against the Varsity Blues has set up a semifinal at Kingston Field against the Western Mustangs. When the Gaels visited London earlier this season, they eked out a 12-12 draw with a last-minute try.

Huigenbos said the team will use their experiences in London to beat Western this time around.

“We have a game film from the first time we played them and we’ll prepare accordingly. They have a good team with a lot of size up front and we’ll make adjustments to put our best team on the pitch.”

Outside centre Ryan Kruyne, who converted five of Saturday’s tries in high winds for a combined 10 points, said the weather made the Toronto game tough but the Gaels will use it as a learning experience for Western.

“It’s playoffs so it’s serious,” he said. “We took some penalties that we didn’t like but we’re building for the big game this weekend.”

Kruyne said the team is working hard to maintain their focus for Western, given that their last two games against the Royal Military College Paladins and the Varsity Blues were against teams not at the same skill level as the Mustangs.

“We’ve had team meetings concentrating on team focus, trying to get everyone on the same page,” he said. “As for the last two games, they were against teams not at the calibre we would’ve liked, so we’ve been practising in live situations against our second team, which is as good training as you can get. … In terms of specific preparation, we’ll be working on set pieces, stuff like that, but it’s important to have everyone on the same level come game day.” As for the semifinal itself, Kruyne said the deciding factor will be who is more mentally ready.

“The difficult thing about these kinds of games is that both teams are amazing,” he said. “What it’ll come down to is who wants it more and will make fewer mistakes.”

The Gaels face Western Saturday at Kingston Field. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

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