BURLINGTON, Ont. – The Queen’s Gaels Men’s Rugby team has been the crème of the crop over the last half decade, amassing four gold medals over that stretch, but in the most recent running of the championship fixture, it was the Guelph Gryphons who came out on top. On Saturday, the two will go head to head for a fourth straight season, as the Gaels welcome the Gryphons to Nixon Field for the OUA championship.
In this gold medal rematch, the Gaels will enter play against the Gryphons out for redemption. Last year, the two squads battled to the bitter end for the Turner Trophy. It took three extra halves and two rounds of penalty kicks, but in the end, the Gryphons defeated Queen's to hoist the Turner Trophy as OUA champions for the first time since 1998.
While the Gaels lost the championship to Guelph last year, the Tricolour did come out on top in the teams’ most recent fixture during the regular season. Hosting the Gryphons on Nixon Field, the Gaels defeated their rivals 34-26 on the day, and with an additional seven wins over fellow OUA competitors, the Gaels were able to enter postseason play with an undefeated record.
After closing out an 8-0 regular season, the unbeaten Gaels pushed passed the fourth-seeded Laurier Golden Hawks during semifinal action last weekend. Their 54-7 victory secured them another championship game on home turf, where the team will look to bounce back after their one year gold medal drought to once again bring the OUA championship to Queen’s.
Leading the Gaels on the sidelines will be David Butcher, as the former National ‘A’ Team assistant coach has the Gaels right back in contention under his new leadership. On the pitch, however, the Gaels will be looking for Alex Colborne to be an offensive force. The third-year centre dominated the OUA leaderboard with five tries, 27 conversions, and one penalty goal. His 82 total points, nine of which he secured against the Gryphons this season, placed him in a tie atop the conference in that category.
Alongside Colborne, powerful Gaels wing Kainoa Lloyd will surely boost the Tricolour attack. The fourth year Mississauga native missed a pair of matches this season against Brock and Toronto when he was representing the national Canada ‘A’ team for the annual Americas Pacific Challenge in Montevideo, Uruguay, but will be looking to make his presence felt on the championship stage.
Despite picking up the win in the regular season, the Gaels will be in tough against the Gryphons and their stingy defence. Outside of their match with Queen’s, Guelph surrendered just 25 points in their remaining seven matches, giving up a conference-low 59 points total on the season. This collective effort helped Guelph secure a 7-1 record on the season, which they followed up with a 26-18 semifinal victory over the McMaster Marauders.
After bringing home the title last year, there is a sense of belief amongst the Gryphons, and with good reason. Despite some star players departing and fresh faces coming in, the team boasts a talented roster with plenty of potential game-breakers ready to help Guelph earn back-to-back titles and execute what has become a continuously strengthened culture of success for the Gryphs.
One such player helping to further develop this winning culture is John Sheridan. The Humber College graduate made a big impact in his debut season with the Gryphons. Sheridan tied with the aforementioned Colborne for the league lead in points (82), even though he played all but one match in a position that wasn’t his usual. Along with the talented flyhalf is a pair of flankers that led the Gryphons in tries. Third-years Marcello Wainwright and Erich Milne were able to pile on nine and seven tries, respectively, both showcasing an impressive combination of speed and power to which many competitors have fallen victim.
For this trio, and the rest of the Gryphons squad to succeed, however, it will go beyond the ability to score; it must also be about their OUA-leading defence. In facing the Gaels – the OUA’s top offensive unit – the Gryphons will be looking to limit chances and make points come at a premium. When the offence has the ball, meanwhile, it will be about building phases and winning the possession contest in what should be a physical battle between the province’s best.
While the outcome is yet to be determined, these familiar finalists will both be looking to add another provincial title to the repertoire when they once again go head-to-head for OUA supremacy. The action kicks off at 1:00pm on Saturday in Kingston and will be streamed live on OUA.tv. In the bronze medal match, meanwhile, the McMaster Marauders will host the Laurier Golden Hawks on Back 10 Field at 2:00pm on Saturday, November 11.