The McMaster Marauders and the Guelph Gryphons know each other well. And their third meeting of the year had hardware on the line. A motivated Marauders team put in a dominant performance to defeat the host Gryphons 28-3 in the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship bronze medal match Sunday afternoon at Alumni Stadium.
McMaster was the more physical side, pushing the Gryphons backwards from the beginning. Guelph looked depleted after spending much of Saturday’s match against the Victoria Vikes defending. And while they were within reach at halftime down 12-3, McMaster had a penalty kick and a try in a two-minute span in the second half to pull away.
The two OUA rivals, separated by a 45-minute drive, played two tight matches already this season. Guelph defeated McMaster 21-15 in Hamilton on Sept. 17 and again in the OUA semi-final, a 26-18 home win for the Gryphons. Both had plenty of support in the rubber match, with many McMaster fans making the drive to fire up their team.
“Of course we would like to have a different colour medal than bronze but it’s a nice way to finish our season,” said McMaster head coach Dan Pletch. “Our goals are always about player development. We don’t plan to win games or championships, we want our guys to be the best rugby players and student athletes they can be so winning a bronze medal is just icing on the cake of what’s been an excellent season.
“We’ve had a few close games with Guelph in the past, so it was nice for us to finally get one. To be fair to them, they had a bunch of guys injured. They had a real war with U Vic yesterday so some of the guys in there were less experienced.”
Mitch Richardson, Will Kelly, and Callum McLeay had tries for the Marauders, while Guelph’s John Sheridan scored his team’s points on a penalty kick right before the first half. Kelly also added three penalty kicks and two converts to give him 37 points over three matches, which was tops in the tournament with the gold medal match still to play.
The Marauders set the tone early by blocking a Guelph kick and the ball didn’t come out of the hosts’ end until Richardson ran a try in from about eight yards out in the ninth minute.
Kelly converted the first try and then after McMaster created a turnover on a Guelph possession, he scored his own in the 18th minute to build a 12-0 lead.
The Gryphons finally got a bit of momentum when Sheridan was good on a penalty kick from 33 yards out on the last play of the first half, giving his side some hope at 12-3.
Guelph head coach Cory Hector played several of his younger players with many veterans hurt. The tournament was a learning experience for his side and will change how they approach future seasons.
“For some of our guys, it was their first minutes playing varsity rugby,” said Hector. “Even if they’re not necessarily happy with their performance overall, it will help them next year and that was part of the point.
“We have a new goal to shoot for,” he added. “It was always win the OUA final and now we have to look bigger than that. And how do we compete nationally year after year. It gives us a new standard to hit and we’ll be looking forward to that.”
Pletch was thankful for the opportunity to participate in the inaugural tournament.
“To be able to play against the best teams in the country gives us a chance to see what we need to do to be at the top level,” he said. “We got some exposure for some of our guys. We’ve had a few identified by Rugby Canada. It’s been an outstanding event.”
Source: Gryphons Sports Information