Gryphon rugby men ace their first test of season
GUELPH – If the Guelph Gryphons consider their OUA men’s rugby league matches as tests, then they passed their season-opening test with flying colours.
The Gryphs clobbered the Waterloo Warriors 74-7 Saturday at Varsity Field in a game that was completed seconds before an afternoon rainstorm started.
Guelph Gryphons 74 Waterloo 7
“I don’t think it’s too much about the games, it’s more about the attitude we bring into training because the guys are kind of dialed in,” Gryphon captain Aria Keshoofy said. “We treat practices like work. We say ‘Punch in as soon as you get there and then do your shift and punch out.’ We always say ‘Pack a lunch with you’ because when you show up there’s no breaks. You don’t get to leave, you are in the whole time and all of that I think translates over to game day very well. Game day for us is more of a test and the practices are where we really improve and we start to kind of build from week to week. It’s more about practices and the attitude we bring to that instead of the short game season.”
The win came a week after the Gryphs were defeated 33-12 by the Queen’s Gaels in a preseason match at Varsity Field, their first game since crushing the New Brunswick Ironmen in the seventh-place game of the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship Tournament at Montreal Nov. 23, 2019.
The victory followed the trend the two teams have set in their matches of the past 10 or 11 years as it was the seventh in a row for the Gryphs in the series. The teams tied in 2010, but the Gryphs have now outscored the Warriors 353-73 since then.
“Truthfully, you never know what teams have and what teams have been doing over the past two years,” Gryphon coach Cory Hector said. “Certainly, what players have come in and what players have left, I think that’s the one thing that’s been hard to keep track of — who’s new and who’s gone. We’re certainly happy with the performance of our players with the new guys and the old guys as well.”
Saturday, the hosts opened the scoring about seven minutes into the match and never looked back and also never looked like they’d be threatened by the visitors.
The Gryphs led 31-0 at halftime and added three more tries in the first 10 minutes of the second half before Waterloo scored its lone try 14 minutes into the half.
Connor McKinney led the Gryphs with three tries while Jakob Faust scored a try and kicked seven converts. Max Goodwin and Collin Smibert each had two tries while single tries were added by David Scollon, Guerschom Mukendi, Cameron Hurst, Shaheer Khawar and Jordan Evans.
Kaleb Delaney scored the try for Waterloo and Josh Eustace booted the convert.
While the game was the first since the pandemic hit, the Gryphs did their best to stay together as a team during the down time.
“It was obviously out of our control so the coaches did a good job of reiterating that we have to control what we can control and I think the guys really emulated that message,” Keshoofy said. “The leadership group and some of the older guys really stepping up, knowing that they’re going to be missing a year. Some of the guys graduating weren’t going to be able to have a final lap so it was tough, but obviously the guys kind of stayed focused and all last year we saw it as an opportunity to just get better and build off a relatively successful season that we had prior. All of that, we’re seeing the fruits of our labour now.”
And how close is the 2021 version of the Gryphs close to the 2019 version?
“A lot of decision-makers are in the same spots,” Keshoofy said. “For us, this is kind of like our banner season. A lot of boys are in their last year. We have a couple of key additions like Jakob Ince, (Jakob) Faust, David Scollon, Colin Lynch. A couple of guys are in new spots and a couple of guys who have worked really hard. I think we have about seven or eight guys that have been working with the (Toronto) Arrows Academy for about two years now. Again, you really see all those guys excelling on the field. A lot of those guys are the ones that were putting tries in today so you obviously see how hard we’ve worked in the two years that we’ve had to build to this.”
“It’s quite different, I would say,” said Hector. “I think for at least 10 guys it was their first game in a Gryphon One’s jersey. It’s quite a bit of turnover, but certainly the spine of our team led by our captain Aria and our midfield with Dalton (Campbell) and Quenton (McLean Lavado) and Max Goodwin, they provided good stability and some of the young guys showed really well. It was good to have that balance between the two.”
Regular-season games this year will be a little more critical than in the past as teams have four games in league play before the playoffs. That’s two less than usual.
“It’s important for us to build continuity within our own lineup because four games is a lot less time to gel so it’s important we do that early and I think we did today,” Hector said. “I think we got good continuity from all of our guys today and it’s certainly something to build on for next week.”
The Gryphs are to host the Brock Badgers at Varsity Field Saturday. Game time is 4 p.m.
Brock edged the Western Mustangs 13-12 in their opener.
- Guelph Sports Journal