October 15 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 25  

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Ruggers come up just short against rivals

By Aron Yeomanson
Gazette Writer

It matters not whether you win or lose in sports, but whether or not you're able to beat the best when it counts. This seemed to be the mind-set of Western's men's rugby squad after suffering a narrow loss to the 2002 Ontario University Athletics champion McMaster Marauders on Thursday.

Despite a strong effort, the Mustangs record dropped to 4-1 as they fell by a score of 34-27 to the more experienced group from Mac. More important than the loss, however, was Western's obvious ability to compete with the team that won it all just one year ago.

"[The Mustangs] are the best team we've seen so far [this season]," said Marauders head coach Phil White. "It was a close match -either side could have won." Trailing 15-6 at the half, the Mustangs came out on fire, racking up 21 points in under 15 minutes to lead by a 27-22 margin. The high-scoring stretch featured a try from Matt Mclure, as well as the seemingly unstoppable speed and determination of Rob Woolfenden, who exploded for two brilliant tries. Andrew Dold made good on the conversions.

The offensive eruption was, from the Mustangs point of view, marred only by the resilience and poise executed by the defending champs from McMaster. The Marauders kept the match close by answering with an early try of their own, dampening the effect of Western's offensive onslaught.

They proceeded to score two more tries late in the half to erase a small deficit and ultimately improve their record to a perfect 4-0. With the victory, the Marauders overtook Western for the top spot in the division standings.

Despite losing the match and first place in the division, the Mustangs were not disappointed with the loss. "Overall, we're happy with our performance," Woolfenden said. "We had the advantage several times and really made them work to score. We know we can play with them." It's this knowledge that makes the Mustangs a better team heading into the playoffs. They gained invaluable confidence and experience in knowing they were able to execute their game plan against the strong team from McMaster.

"Anytime you have a chance to win against a team as good as Mac, you know you played well," said Mustangs' head coach Scott Stewart. "In general, we did what we were trying to do. We weren't as sure as them in terms of experience, but we feel we were able to improve in that regard today." Aside from the issue of experience, Western was hampered by injury as many key players were hurt. Dold, who played in spite of separating his shoulder just five days earlier, said his "banged-up" Mustangs were going to use the long weekend to get healthy.

Getting healthy will be key -with only one regular season game remaining, the playoffs loom in the near future. The Mustangs have shown themselves to be gritty, skilled and hungry this season and it's clear a healthy squad should be able to make a serious run at the OUA title. They certainly competed well against Mac, the team to beat in the eyes of many.



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