The Thunder rugby teams’ seasons came to an end on Oct. 29 as both the men and women were eliminated from the playoffs.
Both teams finished the year with 2-5 records.
The women’s team were defeated 15-10 in Kingston by the St. Lawrence College Vikings in the league’s sole semi-final match. A win would have put Algonquin in contention for the gold medal against the undefeated Fleming Knights.
A yellow card in the second half turned the momentum of the game in favour of the Vikings and the Thunder were never really able to recover once they lost the lead.
“It definitely makes a difference because it changes what you can do tactically,” said coach Dan Gauthier. “The second yellow card, in the second half, was the killer just because of where it happened on the field and the circumstances.”
The card was given for repeated encroachment in the ruck with the Vikings putting the pressure on about 10 yards out from the Algonquin try line.
Following the card, St. Lawrence was able to take its first lead of the game with what would be the winning try. The Thunder had difficulty securing and maintaining as they tried to tie the game up.
“We started off really strong,” said Algonquin captain Maureen Foran. “We were pumped, we were ready to go. And then we held back a little bit, and lost a bit of our drive and that pushed us back. Then we picked it back up as the game went on.”
It was a similar storyline to the previous week’s game – also against the Vikings – when the Thunder fell just short of a comeback, putting the pressure on a little too late. However, Algonquin started the game strong, carrying some of the momentum they had built at the end of their last game with them.
“I felt like we had a lot of confidence, I was really excited and pumped up for the game,” said flanker and vice-captain Daniella Ellis. “I felt like we could do this. Everyone felt that we could win this game.”
The Thunder struck first with a try from Kristin Waterman after the Vikings had a player sent to the sin bin during the first half. St. Lawrence held up two attempts to touch the ball down for the try before Waterman was actually able to break through.
However, the game was tied up by halftime.
“We knew a strong start would be huge for us,” said Gauthier. “It builds the girls’ confidence when they aren’t trying to come from behind.”
Devon Whiteside scored the second try for the Thunder in the second half, but the Vikings quickly tied the game again before taking the lead. It was a tough fought game that both teams clearly wanted to win.
Despite the loss, the Algonquin coaches and players were proud of their performance.
“It was a good way to end [the season],” said Foran. “It showed the kind of team that we are. I know that my teammate has my back.”
The women’s team enters the off-season with a “dark cloud” hovering over its head. With Loyalist dropping out of the league part-way through the season, there are only three schools who have a rugby 15s program. Five colleges have a rugby sevens program which the OCAA added this year.
“Is the entire league changing? That factors into how we approach next year,” said Gauthier.
The men’s rugby team lost their crossover game in Kitchener against Conestoga 12-17 on Oct. 29.
The Thunder took the the lead just three minutes into the game with a try from vice-captain Mark Scholl, who stepped up as a leader for Algonquin with captain Brent Buckley out with a concussion. According to assistant coach Bob Shaw, the team defended heroically for the remainder of the first half, at one point holding the Condors within 10 metres of the try line for close to 10 minutes without allowing them to score.
While playing a man short at the beginning of the second half, Safwan Malik scored a second try for Algonquin. Scholl added the convert to make the score 12-0.
However, yellow cards proved to be problematic for the team. The Thunder gave up two tries after they went down a man for a second time which tied the game. With less than 10 minutes to go, Conestoga scored a third try to take the lead for the first time. From then on, the Condors shut the Thunder offence down to hold on for the win.
The loss means that Algonquin will not have the opportunity to play for a medal.
“All in all, it was possibly the best match we played all year,” said Shaw in an email to the Times after the game. “The attack was good at times, but the defence was superb throughout the match.
“It was very frustrating to lose such a close match, but all coaches were proud of the efforts put forth by the players.”