Stellar season comes to a close in back-and-forth finals loss

After a stunning, undefeated run to the national final, the Gee-Gees women’s rugby team fell just short of their goal, returning to Ottawa with a silver medal and the pride of the entire school.

Since 2000, varsity teams at the U of O have been fighting to bring home another national title. Now, women’s rugby will join women’s soccer and men’s basketball as national silver medal winners in the new millennium.

The team’s final push in the national championship in Victoria, B.C. began with seemingly the toughest test, drawing defending national champion McMaster in the first match.

The Marauders proved to be a tough contest, but the Gees ultimately stood tough and followed the two-try performance of fourth-year front row Alex Ellis to a 25–19 victory.

In the first match, the Gees established that their offensive attack would run through the front row, for the most part advancing the ball by running directly at their opponent.

Defensively, the team had stellar tackling and employed a tactic of stealing opponent’s line-out passes.

Ottawa’s defence was put to the test in the semifinals. After a short turnaround from the quarterfinal the day before, the Gees took on Canada West champ Calgary in another physical battle.

As soon as the game got underway, the teams were absolutely deadlocked, fighting power with power. This grinder of a match came down to a single conversion on a try, the Gees hit theirs, while the Dinos were unsuccessful.

The Gees advanced to the national finals with a 7–5 win.

After two relentlessly physical matches, the Gees faced a familiar foe in St. Francis Xavier. Prior to the match, the X-Women program had won four national titles since their first in 2006, having defeated the Gee-Gees in the semis en route to their most recent in 2014.

The teams also met twice last season, once in exhibition play, and once in the national tournament. This season, the team’s played split-squad exhibition matches against each other in October.

The final match was a back-and-forth affair from the beginning. The X-Women crossed the try line first, followed closely by a try from the Gees.

St. FX utilized their size and premier scrumming ability to keep the Gees on their heels at points throughout the game. Both teams had success in all facets of the game, but it was the X-Women’s execution that was the ultimate difference maker.

Penalties killed the Gees’ final minutes, as St. FX was awarded a penalty try in the 75th minute, pushing their lead to an insurmountable eight points in a 27–19 final.

“It’s been a really great year,” said head coach Jen Boyd upon returning home to Ottawa. “The university’s been in full support of everything we’ve done, it feels really good.”

Boyd says the team’s defence was the strongest asset they had this year, something that showed significantly in the tournament.

“We didn’t have a lot of attacking options,” said Boyd. “We defend with all heart and it got us a silver medal at nationals, so it’s paid off.”

The Gees season ultimately came to a close in extra time, on their opponent’s try line only inches away from making it a possible one-point final margin.

This is the most telling part of the team’s season-long narrative: they were young and ready to fight, and kept battling throughout the entire year—even until the last second.

There’s no shame whatsoever in not bringing back a shiny new trophy for the U of O. The team and their silver medals are a testament to their hard work and the pride they have in themselves—and until next year, that will be fulfilling enough.

—with files from Nico Laliberté.

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Graphic: Spencer Murdock.