Gryphon rugby women advance to OUA title game
GUELPH – The Guelph Gryphons earned another shot at the Queen’s Gaels when they dropped the McMaster Marauders 46-12 in their OUA women’s rugby semifinal on a damp Saturday at Varsity Field.
“I told the girls to make a memory,” Gryphon coach Colette McAuley said. “There’s probably 12 graduating athletes off this team and this is our last home game, so they certainly did that. It was an epic battle and we thank Mac for bringing it and I’m proud of my girls for finishing it.”
Guelph Gryphons 46 McMaster 12
“We just had insane energy right from the start. Everyone was so excited,” Gryphon captain and fullback Talia Hoffman said. “This is for a lot of us our last home game. We have a big graduating class and this was our qualifying to get to Nationals so this game, there was a lot riding on it. We were just so positive going into it. Everyone was super excited and the energy really translated to the field. It was great.”
The win gives the Gryphs a berth in the league final next weekend at Kingston and it also gives them a spot in the U Sports national university championship tournament the following weekend. It’s also to be held in Kingston. Both of those games played a bit of a factor as the Gryphons replaced many of their seniors one by one late in the second half.
“Those are my seniors,” McAuley said. “They had a great battle, but now we’ve booked our spot into Nationals so we’ve got to now look into player safety so we got them off the field. As much as I hate to do that, we’ve got to think about next week and the week after.”
It also gave the seniors a chance to separately receive applause from the spectators and a big hug from coach McAuley as they reached the sidelines.
“I did,” Hoffman said. “I did come off for a hug.”
The Gryphs started in a hurry against the Marauders, scoring their first try four minutes in and running to a 24-0 lead at halftime.
Kennedy Feasby, Hannah Beaumont and Talia Hoffman each scored two tries for the hosts while Kendra Cousineau added a try and three converts and Amara Cavadias scored the other try, Guelph’s first of the day.
Katie McLeod had a try and a convert for McMaster while Stacey Warner also had a try.
Queen’s clobbered the Brock Badgers 78-8 in Saturday’s other semifinal.
The Gaels had finished the regular season atop the Shiels Division at 4-0 while the Gryphs were second at 3-1. McMaster followed at 2-2 while Brock was 1-3 and the York Lions were 0-4.
“What I’m most proud of is that we’ve worked so hard for eight weeks to bring it to a level of play calling and maturity and problem solving in cold, wet weather and they as a team turned it on and did everything we asked. So I was really proud of them,” McAuley said. “They pulled all the stops in what they have been practising in putting on the field and that takes courage to do that and not just go into the same bad habits or things that you’re comfortable with. That’s what I’m most proud of. They got out of their comfort zone and tried new things and effectively executed it and we got the win.”
The pandemic caused a late start to the season and a reduced number of games, but it didn’t cancel the campaign the way it did last year.
“It was definitely tough,” Hoffman said. “We had an extra couple of weeks of training camp which was nice after a year and a half off. It just took a ton of extra contact, a bunch of extra hitting each other to be ready to hit other teams so we’ve had to put in a lot of work for it — similar to other years, but just an extra push right at the end there.”
“Which is again why I am so proud of them,” McAuley said. “We didn’t have those extra games. The program consists of 40 athletes all working hard and fighting for that roster spot and they had to battle each other more so than anyone else. That’s a really, really hard ask to do, but they did it and they got it done. I was really impressed with how they’ve been practising and pushing each other and I think it showed in how we played today.”
The Gryphs and Gaels have already met twice this season with both games being played at Varsity Field and Queen’s prevailing in both. The Gaels won 17-13 in a preseason match Sept. 19 and 31-3 in a league match Oct. 9.
“They’re a huge competition,” Hoffman said. “They’re just a powerful team so I think we just need to play how we played today. We need to just keep beating each other up at practice. That’s what we do every day so if we go in the way we played today, we’ll feel good.”
“If we play this game plan, all the power to them, they’re going to win. They’re going to take it away,” McAuley said. “No crazy passes. They took care of the ball and they put pressure on the opposition. If we can continue doing that going into OUA finals and Nationals, we’re a team that can win.”
The OUA final is set for next Saturday on Nixon Field on the Queen’s campus. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
This year’s championship match will be the fourth consecutive OUA title game between the Gryphs and Gaels. Guelph won in 2017 and 2018 while Queen’s won in 2019.
The Gryphs have won the OUA title 16 times since its inception in 1994 while Queen’s has won it twice.
The U Sports tournament is to go Nov. 10 to 14. It’ll be the fifth consecutive trip to the national tournament for the Gryphs. They won silver in 2018 and were fourth in both 2016 and 2019. The Gryphs have claimed national honours twice as they won the inaugural tournament in 1998 at Hamilton and they won in 2011 at Peterborough.
- Guelph Sports Journal