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Volume 91, Issue 37
Tuesday, November 4, 1997
till you drop
Ruggers cap off perfect season
SPARKS WILL FLY. The Mustangs raise their metal trophy high in the air during Saturday's lightning storm and provincial championship celebration.
By Mike Sikorski
In what turned out to be a muddy affair, the undefeated (8-0) Western Mustang men's rugby team completed their storybook season with a happy ending by beating the four-time defending provincial champion Queen's Golden Gaels 17-11 bringing home the banner of varsity rugby supremacy and ending Western's 20-year championship drought.
The first half saw two Mustang trys scored by Chris Foster and Clark Larmon, with Ed Gardner successfully capitalizing on both conversion attempts despite the adverse weather.
"With the conditions that we had, we couldn't tell each other apart," Gardner said.
The second half was a different story altogether. Western was able to add one more penalty kick compliments of Gardner, but the muddy conditions made it difficult to distinguish the two teams apart, causing some confusion as to which team had possession of the ball.
On the flipside, Western's victory takes the title away from a Queen's program which has dominated the league, winning the championship 10 out of 11 years.
"Mustang rowing coach Volker Nolte came and spoke to the players," Western head coach Gerry Slattery said. "Queen's was a monkey on [the rowing team's] back and they got it off."
Some people, including Slattery believe Saturday's win symbolizes a changing of the guards.
"I can't measure it, the fallout from this will be incredible," Slattery said. "We can now recruit with a solid record. The championship speaks for itself, just my presence at high schools wearing the Western rugby sweatshirt will be enough to draw attention.
Mustang Clark Larmon shared Slattery's optimism as to what lengths the rugby program will benefit.
"We've gotten over the hump, success breeds talent," he said. "The trip to Ireland, the navy trip and now the championship will get all of the best players to come to Western."
With the win comes two decades of alumni players who were unable to experience the joy of victory, but the win brings all the players together.
"I was one of the guys who was here five years ago," Larmon said. "I wish those guys who were with me back then could share this with us.
"It puts into perspective the past, present and the future [of Western]. We had some of the alumni there supporting us and we have the second [team] guys, who are our future. It brings all three of us together."
For Slattery, the win accomplishes a goal he set after taking control of the team last year.
"I said we had to get a championship in the next three years and we did it in two," he said. "The ramifications of this win will be felt for many years. You always want to focus beyond. Now our job is to focus on when we can win again."
With the prospect of many new recruits choosing Western over schools such as Queen's, it guarantees future Mustang squads will definitely thank the team of 1997 for taking that big and final step of shaking the monkey that had clung to them for so long.
"In the next few years, Western will emerge as a powerhouse," Gardner said.
As for describing the moment of victory when the final whistle blew, both the players and coach found it difficult to describe.
"It was amazing, something hard to put into words," Larmon said.
"It was very emotional my heart stopped for a moment, it was like I was dead."
It certainly brightens the future for the Mustangs who hope to build on this season's success. The team is already making plans to play at the University of Victoria in British Columbia and for a tour of South Africa some time down the road.
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Copyright © The Gazette 1997