The inaugural Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship produced its first classic match. The Victoria Vikes and host Guelph put on a show in an 11-11 draw at Alumni Stadium Saturday afternoon, with Victoria advancing to the gold medal game based on pool play point differential.
The Vikes had their way Friday in a 95-0 route of UPEI but the OUA silver medalists proved to be a much tougher challenge. The Gryphons held their ground on several occasions to disrupt the explosive Victoria offence. But they were unable to make one last stand as Vikes’ hooker Tyler Wong finally touched down in the last moments of the match. The convert was no good, and with the game ending in a tie, Victoria advanced because of greater point differential.
Vikes’ head coach Doug Tate felt his team is fortunate to be moving on.
“I was really impressed with Guelph’s defence,” he said, praising the Gryphons for their heart and ability to steal the ball. “You have to give them credit, they really came to play today. They took our guys off their feet, they turned a lot of balls over. To score on the last play of the game, we were a bit lucky. I thought they actually outplayed us today.
“Hats off to them. And to tie a game and not go through, is really tough. We’re lucky that we scored the points against UPEI.”
Tate also noted that the torrential rains holding off until just after the match concluded was advantageous. He said that if the rain started earlier, his players would have had trouble handling the ball on the final possession.
It was a heartbreaking way for the Gryphons to be denied a chance at a national title.
“We’re super proud of the guys,” said Guelph head coach Cory Hector. “They did defend incredibly for the better part of the second half but throughout the whole game, to hold a team of U Vic’s quality to one try on the day, we’re really happy. We’re obviously disappointed with not moving forward but we’re happy with the effort.
“The good news is that we have a number of guys that didn’t get on the field today and I think those guys will be fresh and hungry. We’ll hope for them to bring some energy so we can collect a medal at this tournament.”
Flanker Erich Milne scored a try for Guelph, while fly half John Sheridan added two penalty kicks, the second coming from 32 yards out in the 35th minute to put Guelph up 11-6.
The Vikes drew first blood when outside half Gradyn Bowd made a penalty kick in the 12th minute for a 3-0 lead.
Tate stressed the importance of playing a much better game in the tournament finale against old foe UBC. The sides met in B.C. Premiership league play earlier this season with Victoria falling 44-24.
“We’re going to have to play a lot sharper defensively in the midfield, we’ll have to be much better in the high ball,” he said. “If we make that many errors, UBC is too powerful and will just destroy us. We’ll have to contain them.”
The Vikes and UBC will meet for the Canadian University Championship on Sunday, Nov. 19 at 10 a.m.