Western one win away from reclaiming OUA supremacy

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Western women's rugby

Jon Purdy

IF I LOOK BADASS NOW, YOU SHOULD SEE MY POKER FACE. The women’s rugby team dispatched of the Guelph Gryphons 43-12 this past weekend at the St. George’s Society rugby pitch. The women’s squad keeps gaining momentum like a snowball rolling downhill.

This weekend at the Ontario University Athletics semi-finals at windy St. George’s Society rugby pitch, Western’s women’s rugby team blew away the opposition, beating the Guelph Gryphons 43-12.

Up to this game, the ’Stangs had only given up 25 points in their undefeated season putting them at the top of the league.

Saturday’s match showcased the Mustangs’ calibre of rugby, as they played a well-organized game and minimized mistakes. Effective communication was also a key component to their success.

While the excitement of the Rugby World Cup finals took hold of millions of fans a continent away, fans at the OUA semi-finals were just as pumped up.

Although the afternoon sun was out, a serious wind was blowing, giving life to the Western flag flapping from a tree on the sidelines.

Early on in the first half, the ’Stangs kept the ball in Guelph’s end and had several great rushes by Theresa Van Straaten and Tanja Ness. Eleven minutes in, LaToya Blackwood scored a try off a lineout. Blackwood had just returned from an injury and was in fine form, scoring again and breaking through Guelph’s defence several times.

In fact, the Mustangs had numerous breakaways, due to the pods formation that kept the ball in Western’s possession. The squad looked dynamic on the pitch; a responsive back line that was able to alternate between steep and flat.

Half an hour into the game, a Guelph player was injured and had to be carried off the field " one of the few injuries that day.

Western has had its share of injuries this season. Rachel Spearing, a Western player who was recently struck by a car, was present at the game.

Towards the end of the first half, one Guelph player was penalized, but the Gryphons bounced back with a try shortly after.

By halftime Western had a significant lead, leaving the Gryphons with a 15-point gap to close.

The second half proceeded much like the first, with notable plays off penalties and several impressive conversions kicked by Kate Woodhouse, despite the gusts of wind that had a noticeable effect on ball flight.

The last play of the game ended in a second try awarded to Guelph.

Gryphons head coach Colette McAuley said the conditions made the game challenging at times.

“[The field conditions were] not bad,” she said. “[It was] cold and windy, which was a factor in decisions and momentum 50 per cent of the time.”

Western head coach Natascha Wesch said her team was extremely motivated heading into the game.

“This was especially important for us, because we had something to prove from last year,” she said, referring to the 7-5 defeat to Guelph in last year’s OUA final.

The number of injuries had little impact on the way the ’Stangs played their game, thanks to their deep bench " the team carries 30 players on its roster.

Wesch also had positive things to say about Guelph’s performance in the postseason game.

“Absolutely [they’ve improved],” she said. “Since we last played them they have gotten better.”

Next up for the Purple and Silver will be the OUA final against the Waterloo Warriors, who defeated Trent University 17-15 to advance to the title match. The game will take place on Saturday, Oct. 27 in London at St. George’s pitch.

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