Volume 92, Issue 38
Wednesday, November 11, 1998
Ruggers go down in title defence
By Jamil Jalal Jaffer
When flipping a coin, one has a 50 per cent chance of calling it right. You can win the first time and the next time you can lose.
The Western men's rugby team will be flipping coins for the rest of the year after their loss this weekend at Guelph. The defending champions could not rise to the challenge of defeating a bigger and more focused Gryphon squad, falling 13-11 in a tightly fought match.
Head coach Gerry Slattery was quick to congratulate Guelph head coach Jim Atkinson's side in a championship well earned. "They shut us down," Slattery said. "And we have a lot of respect for their team."
This was Atkinson's first men's rugby championship victory in 25 years. "It was a real nail-biter at the end," he said.
Atkinson felt his forward's control of the ball was the edge in this match. "The back row has been the backbone of our team and has played phenomenal all season."
Slattery was disappointed at the outcome of the match but knew Guelph was deserving of the win.
"We played, maybe, five minutes of rugby, but it's an 80-minute game," Slattery said. "We were disappointed because we were defending our championship. We had high expectations, a great side and a lot of support."
The Mustangs were down 10-0 in a fairly even first half. Guelph's forward, Arjan Lamers, had punched in for a try late in the first 40 minutes and the Gryphons went into the locker room quite confident. Western slowly started chipping away at the lead in the second half and pulled to within two at 13-11, with a try from Jim Leach.
Mustang vice-captain and kicker Ed Gardner, who had six points on penalties, had a chance to tie it up on a difficult conversion attempt but could not get it through.
"We showed a lot of character coming back," Slattery said. "The ball didn't go our way and Guelph basically shut us down. Looking back, we would have done the same thing and prepared the same way."
"It was our fault for not putting points on the board," said Mustang captain Rob Werstine. "You have to score tries to win."
Western made an unusually high number of errors which killed their momentum.
"[Guelph's] pressure caused us to make mistakes which we normally wouldn't have made," Werstine said. "Their defence was great and we didn't get much going aside from a great seven minute series where we scored our try."
As for the team now, the Mustangs are not looking to go through a rebuilding process. "We had a great side and we'll have a great side next year," Slattery predicted.
In the last three years, three different teams have taken the Turner trophy home. With great depth, Western will look to next year to try and regain the championship.
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