By: Sarah Newton
A thrilling overtime victory on the road against the Conestoga Condors Nov. 3 secured a spot in the semi-finals for the Thunder men’s rugby team.
The team started strong with a 29-14 lead in the first half, but things got shaky in the 72nd minute. After a few missed tackles by the Thunder and a controversial yellow card for persistent infringement, the Condors managed to fight their way back, tying up the game with about three minutes left in regulation.
“Well, it was definitely a hard fought match,” said first-year hook Mike Wolff. “We got up early and we poured it on a little bit, then got a little bit of a lead and maybe let our foot off the gas.”
The Thunder continued to fight hard during the first overtime period, falling behind after the Condors scored a penalty kick with their one-man advantage. One of the team’s captains, Dan Burley, got the men focused and motivated between overtime periods, telling his teammates it was “now or never.”
“I thought Dan Burley had the best game of his season,” said Wolff. “He’s the one that really got us going in that final overtime period.”
During the second period of overtime, Algonquin got their penalized player back and managed to score in the final 30 seconds of the game.
“The guys know they felt that they played to the level of their opponents, but they were able to pull together, and it was great composure and maturity on their part,” said head coach Geoff Tomlinson.
Tomlinson said the team really “willed” their victory, and that he was really pleased and proud of them. Three standout players for the Thunder in the game were Jeremy Nesbitt, Dan Burley and Chass Maracle.
This win pushes the men forward to the semi-finals against the Trent Excalibur Nov. 10, and both the players and the coach are looking forward to the opportunity the game presents.
“Trent beat us in the last game of the season, so we’re looking to pay them back,” Wolff said. “They think they have it in the bag because of the results of the last match and we’re looking to catch them off guard.”
Coach Tomlinson said he tries to coach empowerment, which will hopefully help the Thunder in their semi-final game.
“We’ve got to improve our tackling and we’ve got to have a game plan that neutralizes Trent’s strengths,” Tomlinson said. “ … we’ve got to run at them hard all game and wear them down.”