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Ruggers lose a close final
By Dave Martin
All good things must end eventually and for the Western men's rugby team that end came last weekend.
After beating up on Queen's to take the Ontario University Athletics title for three of the last four years, the Golden Gaels seized the crown Saturday, defeating the Mustangs 25-19.
Although Western did not take the top spot, head coach Gerry Slattery said he was pleased with the way his squad handled the circumstances.
"Anytime you travel to Kingston you know you're taking on a tough task, especially in the OUA finals. It's basically as if you're down 10-0 before the game even starts and, for us to have been into the wind the first half, made it that much more difficult," Slattery said.
Western's effort in coming back from a 15-3 half-time deficit was impressive, he added. "We did extremely well crawling back to be only down a point with ten minutes left. The guys showed a lot of character, passion and skill to come from so far behind," he said.
Queen's head coach Brad Greenwood said this win, coming against their fiercest rivals, meant a little more.
CLOSE, BUT NO CIGAR.
A Western men's rugby player reaches for the ball during Saturday
afternoon's OUA final against Queen's. The Mustangs lost the match
"It's certainly something extra to win over Western. Over the last few years, we have been defined as the top two teams, which makes every meeting played at a higher level," he said.
"Both teams really get up for each other and it is good to see that it happened in a final this year," Greenwood said.
"Andrew Dold played phenomenally. At times, he almost single-handedly kept Western in the game. At half-time, we made clear to our team that we have to be aware of him at all times, as any mistake we make, he would punish us for it," he added.
Dold, who kicked four penalties and a convert, felt the difference in the game was a matter of mistakes and which team could best capitalize on those slip-ups.
"It was the little things that decided the game. We made some small mistakes at a few important stages of the game and they took advantage of them. That's the sign of a good team and a lot of credit should go to Queen's, as they played extremely well," he said.
After being surprised with the unexpected loss of four players last year, Western's outlook was bleak. Slattery said the progression throughout the year has been an interesting to watch.
"It took awhile for both the coaches and the players to get our heads around the shock of losing so many guys," he said. "We realized we were suddenly in a rebuilding phase, but to have moved through that stage [in] just one year and get to the finals is remarkable."
"The younger guys were put in big-time roles, but stepped up and showed they were ready for the challenge. Our program is definitely developed to allow this to happen, as it attracts people who fit the personality of the team and have a very strong work ethic," he added.
"To be able to get to the finals five years in a row is an incredible achievement in any sport these days," Slattery said.