Sunday, September 21, 2008

Imperfect, but no longer inhuman

Every Queen's men's rugby game I've covered this year has been a tale of destruction. West Point, U of T, Ulster, all crushing victories for the Tricolour.

I travelled to Western with the men's rugby team this weekend, and it was a hell of a show.

The game started hard, both teams dug in and didn't give an inch either way, it was back and forth. Both teams managed to sustain pressure during the first half, but neither team managed to score. If anything, Western was granted the initiative with the opportunity to convert a couple of penalties, but the three points eluded them because, apparently, their fly-half has two left feet. And by that, I mean he couldn't kick for shit.

As the first half was wrapping up, Queen's managed to smash a try through the Western defensive lines courtesy Pat Richardson... powerful as hell, scrappier than that.

The second half was an interesting one, and it started badly for the Gaels. Fullback Colin Alexander absolutely ruined what I assume was their wing while he was in midair. I'm talking YouTube quality hit, horribly illegal, but absolutely brutal, and awesome to watch from the other side of the field. Mustang going for a ball in the air, Alexander dropped his shoulder and went midair, flipping the poor bugger and lying him out. Probably a red card offense, he was sin-binned.

Western took the initiative from there, and after a fair amount of pressure, they managed to score their first try of the game. But, like I said before, their fly-half is balls and he missed the conversion, leaving the score at 7-5.

Alexander returned, but we took another yellow card from there, a pretty iffy call from the ref, something about illegal movement in the scrum. Either way, we were a man down for another 10 minutes, and Western managed to convert again. This time they went damn near right through the pipes, and their fly-half would have been hard-pressed to miss this one. 12-7 going into the end of the game.

So we enter extra time, Queen's is at full-strength, and pushing harder than all hell. Their efforts were finally rewarded as Richardson punched through his second try of the game, tying up the score. The passion was running incredibly high, and I couldn't contain my own cheering as they pushed the try home. I know, I know, impartial reporter, blah blah blah, there's only so much emotion one can ignore before reverting to the fan that they truly are. The conversion was missed by mere inches though, and that wound up being the last kick of the game, as the game was tied 12-12.

The post-game interviews took a very different tone than they had in any of those previous games I'd covered... they were actually emotional. There was something other than "w00t we won!", it was human. There was a palatable sense of accomplishment, but also one of loss.

The post-game was also mind-blowing. For me, the game always ended at the final whistle, a couple of interviews and I'm on my way. But, when you're a 5 hour drive away from home, it's not easy to pull that off. I was introduced to the tradition of the home team hosting the away team to dinner. Hearty, hot food was served up by the Western team, and the teams sat together and talked. Even after the game, during the seconds match, there was a fair amount of socializing between the players who had, only moments ago, been out for eachother's blood. Everyone seemed to know eachother and, beyond that, seemed to be friends with one another. At the dinner, the captains chose the opposing team's players of the game, and then everyone went their own way.

The social, the human aspect to the game I'd never experienced before was impressive as it was surprising.

I would also encourage Gaels fans to start going out to men's rugby home games. The team is amazing, their play is exceptional, they're easily one of the better teams in the OUA, if not the CIS, and, like all varsity teams, could do with some more fans.


Andrew Bucholtz said...

Indeed. Rugby gets a lot of support already at their games, but I'm sure they could use more. The bigger problem in my mind is how many people on campus don't know anything about or care about the team: apart from the actual games, there's little buzz about them.

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