By: Eamon Hillis
The McMaster men’s rugby squad took a trip to Guelph on Oct. 21 for a battle against the undefeated Gryphons. The Marauders were looking to avenge last season’s 47-15 Ontario University Athletics semi-final loss, but were unsuccessful. The Gryphons easily walked through the McMaster men 56-3, who finishing the regular season with a perfect 8-0 record.
Guelph was the only team to be undefeated this season, and they will be the clear favourites for the upcoming OUA championships. They were the 2014 and 2015 OUA silver medalists, losing close matches to Queen’s each of those years.
Going into Friday’s game, it was clear that the McMaster men had their work cut out for them. In addition to an undefeated record, Guelph had put up 367 points through their seven games, with only 48 against. To challenge Guelph would be a formidable task, especially as the visiting team before a hostile crowd. Regardless, the Marauders went into the game with confidence.
“We are definitely the underdogs,” McMaster head coach Dan Pletch said before the game. “They’re at home, they’re undefeated, plus we haven’t beaten them in a few years. Still, we are very confident. We’ve had a few good performances this season and I believe we are building nicely to the playoffs.”
Although their 53-point margin of defeat appears deflating on paper, it was not an indication of the team’s ability. McMaster did not have a full roster going into the game.
“We have four or five guys who are currently out with injuries,” Pletch said. “Most of them should be healthy in the coming weeks, which will be a good help.”
With this loss to Guelph, McMaster fell from second to fourth in the standings, losing out on a potential first-round bye. Queen’s and Western both jumped Mac in the standings, with Queen’s getting the first-round bye.
“This was a very strong Guelph team,” Pletch said after the game. “Whenever we made any mistakes they jumped at us and were able to score. Some of our performance was quite good, it was just a few mistakes here and there and they took advantage. Overall, the boys played really hard, and in some ways, it was the best game we’ve played all season. But, Guelph is a very good team.”
OUA playoffs begin on Saturday Oct. 29, where McMaster will host the fifth-seeded Trent Excalibur in quarter-final action. Mac will be looking to go into next week strong. They will hopefully be adding some players to their roster who are returning from injury. In addition, with over a week to recover from their Friday game, the team will be able to take advantage of that extra day’s rest.
“We’ve had a couple of guys who have been injured and could be coming back next week,” Pletch said. “Also, with the game being on Saturday we’ll be able to get three or four hard training sessions in plus an extra day’s rest before the weekend.”
Mac beat the Excalibur 27-12 during homecoming festivities, and will be hoping to repeat that outing this weekend.