With the blistering sun heating up the turf, the Gaels mental strength and stamina was put to the test in their final regular season game on Saturday. In a hard-fought battle, the women’s rugby team fell to the McMaster Marauders 21-15.
Saturday’s game was also head coach Dan Valley’s first game against his former team, as he was the Marauders’ assistant coach prior to joining the Gaels over the summer. Despite the loss, Valley was impressed with his team’s effort on technical aspects they’ve been trying to improve on.
“I think we outperformed them in a lot of aspects of the game. I thought we were better than we had been than the week before at the point of contact,” Valley said. “We were a little more aggressive, a little more abrasive than we had been a week before against York.”
The game was never out of grasp for the Gaels, as they finished the first half down just 14-12. At the start of the second half, the gap widened to 21-12, but Queen’s fought back to come within a try of tying the score. With seconds left in the match and a chance to take the lead, the Marauder’s sturdy defence held strong, denying the Gaels of any opportunity to complete the upset.
Valley made a point of noting that McMaster didn’t beat Queen’s, it was more the Gaels beat themselves.
“[We were] in good positions to score and didn’t capitalize on them,” he said. “It’s not unfathomable that we’re north of 30 [points] if we make a couple of different decisions at some key times so that’s part of our learning process.”
With the regular season now at a close, Queen’s is beginning to prepare for the OUA quarterfinals. Starting on Thanksgiving weekend, they will either play Trent University or Laurier University. If Queen’s wins their quarterfinal, there will be a rematch of Saturday’s game against McMaster.
Valley thinks the two-week layoff will give the team time to process what they need to do when the playoffs come.
“I think [the layoff] is nice…I think we’re in a really nice spot now that we have two weeks to refocus and really dial in on the areas we need to improve. We’ve established our type of identity, I think we know how we are trying to play. Now it’s about us going to work and being a little more technically accurate,” he said.
Saturday’s loss may have been a blessing in disguise for the Gaels, as a win would have propelled them to a semifinal bye. The three week layoff was something that didn’t appeal to Valley.
“I hope we get to earn the right to go down to Hamilton and go to work,” he said.
Over the course of the next couple weeks, Valley wants to send a positive and confident message to his team.
“Coming in, my big intention was to put us in a position where we genuinely believe we can beat anybody and I think our results over the last four weeks…I think we’re there. “The challenge for us now is going from being competitive in games to capitalizing on those opportunities,” Valley said.
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