Gryphon rugby men find top gear for win over RMC

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH – It took a while for the new-look Guelph Gryphons to get going, but once they did they claimed a 36-0 victory over the RMC Paladins in their OUA men’s rugby season opener Sunday at Varsity Field.

“At the end of the day we got our bonus-point win and we kept them off the scoreboard, which was our goal,” Gryphon coach Cory Hector said. “We’ve got a lot to work on, but we’re happy.”

“It was good. We came out strong and hard,” captain James Caylor said. “The structure wasn’t where we wanted it, but we’ll keep getting better.”

The Gryphs grabbed a 14-0 lead in the first half and added four tries in the second half. However, the Paladins were a tougher opponent than the final score indicated.

“They’re phenomenal in the set piece and for the majority of the game, they played the game at the pace they wanted to play,” Hector said. “They made us work for it. In the line-out and the scrum and even around the breakdown, they were good and we identified areas where we need to be better in.”

The Gryphs are hoping to pick up the pace and will be looking at ways to achieve that during this week’s practices.

“We just need to be able to play faster so if we’re going to play faster, we’re going to have to clean up our breakdown a bit more so that the ball is available to play fast,” Hector said. “We feel if we can play fast then it’s tough to defend us.”

“(We’ve got to work on) just keeping the structure – working hard to get in the structure and then keeping fast,” Caylor said. “Once we keep the tempo up, I don’t think any team is going to be able to touch us.

“We just have to work harder to get set, get into our plays so we can run it faster because right now we’re just taking too much time to get it set. That will just come with fitness and playing more.”

The Gryphons have changed considerably from the team that won the OUA title last fall.

“We graduated 17 and we have a couple out due to injury so today we had 10 guys who had never played a first-team OUA game before,” Hector said. “We had another two guys that have been off for at least a year so of the 23, we had 12 new faces from last year which I think contributed a little bit to the jitters. They’ll grow into it.”

The league’s eligibility rules have changed so the days when a player is in his 10th season of university men’s rugby, as Guelph’s Adam Maahs was last year, are a thing of the past. However, the new league rules weren’t the reason for the high turnover for the Gryphs.

“You can’t be older than 25, but we’re just at a point where we don’t have those guys anymore,” Hector said. “We’re quite young as you generally are when you graduate 17 guys. We only have two fifth-years. This group will be the nucleus for the next few years, which is exciting.”

“The guys that are playing, we all came off from the bench so we’re coming from playing 20 minutes to either full 80 or 60s,” Caylor said. “It’s not like we’re brand new guys, but it’s definitely a new look and I’m definitely confident in all the boys coming out.”

Blake Aram scored two tries for the Gryphs while Julian Crowe, Erich Milne, MacLain Wakefield and Jordan Hofstra scored one try apiece. John Sheridan kicked three conversions.

“We shared the ball, for sure,” Caylor said. “Everyone all over the pitch was playing well and it really came together in the second half.”

Next game for the Gryphs is Friday when they’re to tangle with the Waterloo Warriors at Waterloo. Game time is 6 p.m.

Waterloo suffered a 49-12 loss to the Brock Badgers Sunday at Brock.