On a grey dreary day and muddy and slick field, the Marauders could not weather the Mustang storm.
The McMaster men’s rugby team fell to a hearty Western Mustangs team 19-3 on Oct. 15.
Western, aiming to avenge their last lost to McMaster in the 2010 OUA Finals, came out hard and immediately pinned the maroon and grey inside their 22-metre line. Some staunch tackling and defensive pressure would see the Marauders force the Mustangs out to the centre of the pitch following some hard work by the forward pack.
Western would keep on coming in the opening half and the Marauders would continue to defend their line with impressive vigour and aggression. Craig Leveridge, in just his second game at flyhalf with the team, would use his boot to clear the end a few times and relieve some of the pressure.
When they did have the ball in hand, McMaster’s quick ‘go forward’ attack with their powerful pack would wreak havoc amongst the Mustang defence, causing them to take numerous penalties on the day. One of said penalties would lead to Andrew Ferguson’s penalty kick which would stand as the Marauders’ only points on the day and give them a 3-0 lead.
Slippery conditions favoured the Marauders throughout the first 40 minutes, as the lethal Mustang backline would be forced into handling errors. The tight game plan that both teams would turn to as a result of the pouring rain would show the dominance of the McMaster pack, including Man of the Match Cam Stones.
The consistent pressure their 22-metre line would cause the Marauders to take penalties and after several calls going against them within a few minutes, senior player Will Long was given a yellow card. Led by the fearless Mike Sheppard, the maroon and grey would work even harder to hold up the Western offence and would put enough pressure on them at scrum time to get out of their immediate red zone.
The Mustangs would look to the foot many times throughout the day but the McMaster back three of Grant Schneider, Mike Paris and Chris Gordon would be up for the challenge. Paris in particular had several great counters to get the Marauders out of trouble.
Unfortunately for the Marauders, their opponents would finally break through to open the second half with Conor Trainor, who recently returned from representing Canada at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, touching down. Western would convert to take a 7-3 lead.
The try would take the wind out of McMaster’s sails as Western used the momentum shift and immediately broke the line off the ensuing kickoff. The resulting lineout would see some skilled play by the Mustang back line eventually result in a try after a lengthy injury delay, putting Western up 12-3.
As the game wore on, emotions would come to a boil with one of the Marauders being penalized following a skirmish after a whistle. Western would capitalize after freshman Lucas Balkovic picked off a McMaster pass for a try of his own.
In spite of the disappointing result, there were some huge positives for McMaster. Their area of weakness thus far this year, their defensive structure and individual tackling, was far improved on the day.
If the Maroon and Grey can keep this up, they have the potential to challenge first and second place teams Western and Queens come playoff time.
The team’s next challenge comes on Oct. 21, as they travel to Guelph to take on the Gryphons.