Gryphs, Thunderbirds run away with first-day wins
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
GUELPH – The Guelph Gryphons and UBC Thunderbirds scored one-sided wins on the opening day of the first Canadian university men’s rugby championship tournament at Alumni Stadium.
The OUA silver medalist Gryphons ran past the Maritime champion UPEI Panthers 66-0 after the B.C. Rugby Union university champion UBC Thunderbirds downed the Quebec champion Concordia Stingers 46-0.
Guelph 66 UPEI 0
The Gryphs put this one away early, scoring four tries in the first 15 minutes on their way to a 40-0 halftime lead.
“The score wasn’t really indicative of the game,” said Jordan Hofstra, the Guelph native and Ross graduate who scored the eventual game-winning try four minutes into the match. “I think UPEI is actually a very good team. Maybe there was some first-game jitters there.”
“We’re happy,” Gryphon coach Cory Hector said. “We got everybody in relatively healthy and came away with the win.”
Hofstra set up another first-half try when he blocked a kick deep in the UPEI end and he also appeared to be headed to two more tries when the ball was knocked out of his grasp on last-ditch efforts by UPEI opponents.
The Gryphs felt fortunate to have a relatively easy match in their tournament opener.
“It gives the boys a lot of confidence coming into the next game. It’s going to be a big one,” Hofstra said. “It’s good to get a bit of confidence.”
“It gives us the opportunity to play and to challenge ourselves to get everybody in because I think the important thing about this tournament is that it’s a war of attrition,” Hector said. “We were able to put in all 11 guys off the bench so that was a good start.”
The Gryphs might have headed into the game feeling a little town following their 62-17 loss to the Queen’s Gaels in last weekend’s OUA championship match.
“You’ve just got to keep your heads up,” Hofstra said. “All the boys have got to keep looking forward. We’ve got games to play and we can’t be dwelling in the past. The reality is that that Queen’s game was not our best by any stretch. It was probably our worst game of the season and it just came at an unfortunate time. We’re definitely looking for a bit of revenge in this tournament – looking to play our best and leave it on the field.”
“We just kind of said that good teams lose sometimes,” Hector said. “The nice thing about this year is that we don’t have to end the year on that. We have the opportunity to sort of redeem ourselves and just go back to playing rugby instead of sitting and thinking about it for eight months.”
Queen’s is not at the national tournament, the other OUA berth being taken by bronze-medalist McMaster Marauders.
Man-of-the-match Erich Milne scored two tries for the Gryphs while Hofstra, Kyle Lagasca, Sam Evans, Jack Caylor, Andrew Douglas, Ben Wust, Chris Gray and Alex Chaffey scored one apiece. John Sheridan kicked seven conversions and Walsham Owen kicked two.
One of the goals of the tournament is to bring the various university men’s rugby leagues together and to get men’s rugby recognized as a U Sports sport. Women’s rugby is a U Sports sport.
“You see teams here and it’s not incredibly popular all across Canada,” Hofstra said. “You can see it’s a very different skill gap between Ontario, B.C. and sometimes Quebec, but I think it’s important as a Canadian sport to get all those teams on the same playing field and really elevate the sport. I think Rugby Canada is doing a lot of good here, really trying to get everyone on the same level and bring up rugby as a sport in Canada. I think this is a good start.”
“It’s nice to get to play all these universities from across the country,” Hector said. “We’re lucky enough to play in a nine-team league, but UBC and UVic, it’s only those two in a men’s league and the AUS, they’re just club sports there as I understand it. I think everybody is excited to play against teams from across the country because we haven’t done it before.”
UBC 46 Concordia 0
The Thunderbirds jumped ahead 20-0 in the first half when they had the wind at their backs. They added four more tries going into the wind in the second half.
Fraser Hurst scored two tries for UBC while Theo Sauder added a penalty kick and three conversions. Scoring one try apiece were Nathan Rees, Clint Lemkus, Nick Allen, man-of-the-match Michael Smith and Cali Martinez. Daniel Archer had one conversion.