The McMaster Marauders are off the to OUA semifinals in spectacular fashion.
The women’s rugby squad dominated in cold and rainy conditions Back Ten Field on Oct. 15, crushing the Toronto Varsity Blues 48-0. The victory marks the team’s first shutout of the season, and earns them a spot in the provincial semifinals against the Brock Badgers.
Natasha Turner opened the scoring for the Marauders, with Maggie Cogger-Orr taking charge with two tries of her own to push to lead to 19-0. Kim Ngai capped off the half with a score of her own, and the Maroon and Grey took a 24-0 lead into halftime.
The second half began with 20 minutes of back-and-forth play, as both teams were handicapped by high winds and rain. The Marauders would finally break through as Turner ran for two tries in ten minutes.
Ngai and Emily Ricketts added insurance as Turner converted on a kick for the first time on the day, much to the delight of the McMaster sideline. The convert was to be the last play of the game, as a relieved Turner raised her hands with the referee’s whistle, mercifully ending a dominating performance by the Marauders.
Following his team’s win, Cam Mitchell spoke about how it felt to claim his first playoff victory as a rookie head coach.
“It was a bit of a relief,” said Mitchell. “I knew that Toronto wouldn’t be the same team we played before and I think they came out with a bit more flash out wide, but the conditions really helped us and we were able to handle it.
“I’m very happy. This is the first game of the year in which we haven’t allowed any points, so that was very big for us.”
The defensive performance was clearly important to a team that has dominated on offence all season long, but had yet to earn a shut out.
“Going forward we want to keep doing this,” Mitchell remarked. “We know we’re going to have a lot better opposition to face. So it’s about doing the same things we’ve been doing, just a little sharper because the opposition is going to be better.”
The coach praised the performance of two defenders in particular.
“We played tons of defence and Lindsay Turner made some very big tackles, as well as Stephanie Baron, who came in as a substitute for us.”
Mitchell also spoke about the consistency he has instilled in his team.
“We’ve basically done the same thing we’ve done all year. For defence we didn’t have any little mistakes, so we didn’t give away any points, so that was the biggest thing we can take away from this game.”
The Marauders defeated the Varsity Blues 68-7 during the regular season. When asked if it was difficult to keep in team playing at a high intensity, knowing they had won so easily just weeks previously, Mitchell praised his squad’s focus.
“Once the game started, I didn’t worry at all. In practice this week I was worried we wouldn’t be quite as intense coming in but I think the women proved me wrong with that,” said Mitchell.
Adding to the playoff atmosphere, the match was played in harsh conditions, which lead to difficulty moving the ball and offensive errors.
“I think if anything [the weather] favoured us because we’re definitely stronger in the forwards. They tried to run some stuff out wide that may have been a little easier if it had been better weather but overall it wasn’t a huge factor for either of these teams.”
Mitchell’s post-game message to his team was simple.
“I just told them that I was very happy with their game, happy we did not allow any points and that we still had a lot of work to do to prepare for the next two weeks,” said Mitchell.
Next, the Marauders will take on the Brock Badgers, who scraped by the Waterloo Warriors 13-0 in triple-overtime.
After two overtime periods solved nothing, the third overtime was played in the form of penalty kicks, with the Badgers converting on their final kick for the victory.
Coach Mitchell and the Marauders will not change anything in preparation for what is a relatively unknown opponent.
“We haven’t seen them in a couple years because they’re in the other division, but we expect them to be similar to most of the teams we’ve played,” said Mitchell.
“We’re not going to change anything specifically, we’ll just play our system and we’ll attack where ever we see them being vulnerable on the field.”
That OUA semifinal will be played on Oct. 22 at 12 p.m. on Mac’s Back Ten Field.