Gryphons Men's Rugby Team 2016-2017 OUA Champions
Tuesday, November 15, 20160 Comments
Guelph Gryphons Men's Rugby Team, 2016-2017 OUA Champs. Photo courtesy of gryphons.ca
Last fall, the Gryphons and Gaels played for the OUA Championship finals, and the rivalry was real. The Gaels took the title in the 2015-2016 season, but this year the Gryphons were ready for them.
On Sunday spectators braved the cold for almost four hours, in order to watch Guelph clinch the victory over Queens and celebrate their first championship title since 1998.
It was most definitely a game worth waiting for.
From the first whistle, it seemed like it would be an intense game: with a quick try for Guelph in the third minute of play and one for Queens in the fifth, the Gaels pulled ahead with a conversion to make it 5-7. But just before halftime, another try and conversion for Guelph left the crowd amped up heading into the break, Gryphons leading 12-7.
Following the half time break, Queens pushed back with a penalty goal in the 45th minute to make it 12-10, and pulled ahead in the 68th minute with a try and conversion to bump it to 12-17.
With an early red card to Guelph, the Gaels had numbers on every ruck. Guelph had strong scrums, and some incredible feats of defensive force as they held Queens up at the goal line on several separate occasions. In terms of tenacity, the boys showed up with their game faces on.
With nerves building as the end of regulation time crept closer, Guelph scored a try in the 74th minute, making the game 17-17.
Guelph and Queens fans cheered alike, albeit confused. What were the rules for a championship game? Bundled-up moms, camera-wielding dads, and hot chocolate-holding friends and fellow students of players all conferred on examples of what other professional leagues do for tie breakers during playoffs, offering suggestions and predicting what would happen next. What was OUA policy, and why couldn’t anyone in the crowd ease their anticipation?
Their saviour came running down the sidelines of the field, clad in orange and sporting a Gryphons logo: “Ten minutes of overtime!”
Guelph came out swinging, with a try and conversion in the 89th minute for a 24-17 lead, but Queens answered the call just seven minutes later with a try and conversion to bring it back to a tie at 24-24. The whistle blew to signal the end of overtime, and the concerned conversation picked right back up.
The human beacon of hope made his rounds again to quell the crowd. “Sudden death overtime, ten minutes!”
Regardless of undoubtedly being exhausted, Guelph showed no signs of their stamina or spirits suffering, despite having played a man short for the last hour or so.
Ten minutes of intense play later, and the sudden death period remained scoreless.
The murmur of concern that spread through the crowd was confirmed by both captains being called to the center for a coin toss to decide who would go first in the five player dropkick shootout.
Guelph first, Queens second. The same representative made the rounds, announcing “Five kickers per team! Five kickers per team!” every few strides as they jogged around the fields parameters.
The excitement was palpable on and off the field, as the crowd took up the task of creating a wall of noise, aimed at each Queens kicker. Encouraged, of course, by the players on the sidelines, trying to take some pressure off of their teammates; the five kickers for Guelph swarmed nervously around left centre field, attempting to stay warm and loose.
From 22 metres out, both first kickers tried to dial in on the posts and fight the cool, breezy conditions, but to no avail. Queens second kick was good, and it was a long few minutes until Guelph’s last kicker put one through the uprights to tie it up… again.
With the kickers warming up for their second rotation, the ref moved the stand out to the 35 metre mark.
This time, Guelph first kicker started off with a bang: a silence that would have heard a pin-drop as the ref considered the angle of the kick. A hand in the air to mark the kick was good, and the crowd perked right up.
With no more scoring kicks until Guelph’s last kicker, Gryphons got the walk off when their final man sent one sailing through the uprights -- and spirits soaring as barriers were tossed aside, and the crowd rushed the field to celebrate with the team locked in a frenzy of excitement at the centre of it all.
With victory so close the last couple of years and a hot streak on this season, the men’s rugby team joins the Guelph women’s rugby team in the champion’s circle; the Gryphon gals won their championship title a couple of weeks ago versus McMaster University in Hamilton (24-7), and were on hand to encourage and celebrate with the boys last night.
Congrats to all of our Gryphons rugby players and cheers to both teams for an incredible season!