Laurier rugby’s historic playoff run comes to a conclusion

Photo File/ Photo by Tanzeel Sayani

A historic playoff run came to a difficult end for the Wilfrid Laurier University men’s rugby team as the Golden Hawks suffered a 54-7 defeat to Queen’s in the OUA semi-finals this past Saturday.

Although the loss is disappointing for the Hawks, it is an understandable one as they lost to a juggernaut.

The Gaels were undefeated going into the game and are widely regarded as the best rugby team in the OUA league.

Queen’s took an early lead and kept building on it throughout the day. Laurier’s defense kept conceding and, in the end, the deficit was simply too much to overcome.

“I think the guys realize that we sort of made our own bed against Queen’s [and] the score doesn’t necessarily reflect that. We had discipline issues and we had execution issues,” head coach, Ian McLeod said.

“When you have that against a good team like Queen’s you’re going to be in trouble.”

The season, however, doesn’t end here for the Hawks.

They will now face McMaster on Saturday, Nov. 11, for the OUA bronze medal.

“A bronze medal will be pretty good for this program going forward. We would take a great deal of pride in that. The boys will show up and it’ll be a contest because the last game against Mac there was a point difference,” McLeod said.

“That game could’ve gone either way. We know it’s going to be a battle and now we got to go there and play. I think we’re ready and I think it’ll be a good game.”

The Hawks played the Marauders at home in the regular season on Oct. 1, a game that ended with a final score of 34-33, with Laurier coming out on top.

The regular season victory should help with the Hawks’ preparation, but it will be a much tougher test this time around as the game will be played in Hamilton.

“We need to better defensively,” McLeod said. “We won the game but we still gave up 33 points. If we give up 33 points again, I have a bad feeling we’ll be on the wrong side of the outcome.”

“We just have to make sure that we’re executing to the best of our abilities. It’s not that much different from playing Queen’s. You make mistakes, and the better teams in this league will take advantage of those mistakes.”

“They want to be the team to beat going forward and they certainly can be. That’s the exciting part for me and if we can top off this year with a bronze medal, that would be a positive step forward in making the guys realize that we’re making that progress and hopefully we’ll get there sooner than later.”

No matter what happens in the bronze medal game, this season has been immensely successful for Laurier.

It’s the farthest the Hawks have gotten in the playoffs since 1999 and that is a testament to the amount of hard work that’s been done by the coaching staff and the players.

“It’s been a successful season if you look at the numbers. The regular season record and winning that playoff game against Western, those are all positive steps for the program,” McLeod explained.

“I think it can only get better from what I’ve seen. I don’t think we’ve played our best rugby yet as a team. This group of individuals we have are capable of playing better than we have and that’s exciting for the future,” he continued.

“Some of the young guys coming up will be that much stronger, that much bigger and be able to help us that much more,” he said. “It’s been a decent year but I’m not going to let the guys off the hook.”

“I think we should’ve been at least 6-2. That’s what the good teams do, they prepare each week and they don’t take weeks off. That’s how they get the gold medal games and that’s the mentality we have to learn.”

With the amount of young talent on the roster, the future is bright for the Golden Hawks. The semi-final appearance and a possible bronze medal feels like the start of something special.

“The goal for this program going forward should be a final four finish each year,” McLeod said.

“There’s no reason down the road [that] we shouldn’t be in a gold medal game and win a gold medal game,” he continued.

“They want to be the team to beat going forward and they certainly can be. That’s the exciting part for me and if we can top off this year with a bronze medal, that would be a positive step forward in making the guys realize that we’re making that progress and hopefully we’ll get there sooner than later.”

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