By: Eamon Hillis
At the height of homecoming festivities on Oct. 1, the McMaster men’s rugby squad defeated the Waterloo Warriors 38-13.
Filling the bleachers at 10 Acre Field to capacity, the McMaster supporters showed themselves boisterous. There was a celebatory atmosphere in the air, and before a sea of maroon and grey fans, the Marauder men did not disappoint.
In the week preceding their game against Waterloo, Mac lost a competitive away game to the Queen’s Gaels 27-11. It was the team’s first defeat of the season, and although difficult to swallow, they were proud of it nonetheless. According to members of the team, the score did not reflect the game.
“A lot of things went right [against Queen’s],” head coach Dan Pletch said. “In looking at the game statistics, it was by far the best we’ve played all season. In terms of our ball retention, tackling percentage, and scrum stats, it was great.”
“We really played well and gave ourselves a good chance to win. But what often happens when you play against a good team is that your mistakes get turned into tries against you.”
Rookie flyhalf William Kelly, who scored six points on two penalty goals in their game against Queen’s, is hopeful that his team will be able to redeem themselves.
“In our match against Queen’s we were probably the better team,” said Kelly. “We just got unlucky against an experienced opponent. But, I think we’ll be able get them back further on down the road.”
Looking to bounce back against an opponent lower in the standings, Mac came into Saturday’s game against the 0-4 Warriors with confidence. Coach Pletch used this opportunity to take rest where it was needed.
“We have a few guys who are carrying a few nagging injuries,” Pletch said before the game. “It will be a mix of a lot of experienced guys out there, but also some new guys thrown in as well. Having said that, we expect every week that we will improve and get better. It doesn’t matter who is in, or who the opposition is.”
Throughout the game, Waterloo played a tough style and showed themselves to be fine opposition, not allowing Mac to run the score up. This led to a hard-hitting, fan-friendly game, with both sides playing physical defense.
Fourth-year wing Matthew Nicol had an exciting game, displaying his remarkable speed and contributing two tries in the second half. Kelly chipped in 13 points on two conversions and three penalty kicks.
William Kelly has been a consistent source of scoring for the Marauders. Through five games, Kelly leads the Ontario University Athletics conference in points with 50, and is responsible for over 40 percent of the team’s total points this season.
When asked upon which players have made a significant impact to this season’s success, Pletch noted that many of his players have contributed, but was quick to give praise to third-year prop Mike Smith.
“[Smith] is relatively new at prop but he’s worked very hard and has done a great job solidifying our scrum—which is something that has been a weakness the last couple years. We have a lot of good players on the wing, but without a good scrum it’s difficult to get going.”
Smith and his team are 4-1 in regular season play and are fourth in the OUA rankings.
They will face the Laurier Golden Hawks on Oct. 7 at home, where they will try to continue their success moving closer to the post-season.