Perfection on the pitch: A look back at the Golden Gaels’ rugby season

Kingston,ON- What do you get when you combine a men’s team angling for a three-peat and a women’s team sick of finishing second? Add in two undefeated seasons and you get the Queen’s Golden Gael’s rugby programs.

The Gaels had an impressive season all around, but the fall season was where they truly shone. Both the men’s and women’s soccer teams made the playoffs, the women after an impressive 12-0-2 season and both men’s and women’s rugby teams brought home some serious hardware both at the provincial and national levels. The winter sports season was a little less eventful with both hockey teams having middling seasons. The men’s volleyball team took home their second Forsyth cup. The rugby pitch was where the Gaels stayed most dominant.

mvb oua banner 2020
(PC: Rick Zazulack)

The Queen’s Golden Gaels were the most terrifying teams in the OUA this past season. Both the women’s and men’s teams had undefeated regular seasons, steamrolling through their divisions to win their respective OUA championships. 

The men had an undefeated regular season on the way to the playoffs, making this their third perfect season in a row. This was also their third championship in as many years. Queen’s have had significant success under head coach David Butcher. When Butcher, a native scotsman, was hired in 2017, he became the university’s first full-time (paid) head coach. He immediately led the Gaels to an undefeated season in 2017-18 and he hasn’t lost a regular season game since. 

The Gaels earned a berth in the Canadian University Rugby Championships at Concordia University. They battled with McGill in the first round, coming out on top 36-10. They lost to the eventual champions, the University of Victoria Vikes in the semi-final, losing by just six points 14-8. Moving on to the bronze medal game, the Gaels faced the host team Concordia stingers. Queen’s came out strong to score the first try and maintain the lead for the entire match. They took the bronze, thanks in part to a stellar performance by fifth year scrum-half, Dylan Young. Young was named a tournament all-star after scoring three of the Gaels five tries in the final match. Evan Underwood joined Young on the first team of tournament all-stars, while Stefan Zuliani and Colm Quirke were named to the second team. 

2019 mrgy bronze
(PC: Kyran Thicke)

Young’s eligibility runs out this season but Underwood and Zuliani have just finished their third years, Quirke finished his second. With Butcher still at the helm, the Gaels are going to be dangerous for seasons to come. 

The women were looking for redemption at the beginning of the season. For the past two seasons, the team had lost to the Guelph Gryphons in the OUA championships. With two silver medals in as many years, the Gaels were going for gold. Their season opener set the tone. They embarrassed Western 135-0 and then gave McMaster the same treatment the very next weekend taking their second game 100-0. No team scored a single point against the Gaels until the third game of the season, the Gaels took their regular season match against Guelph 54-19. They finished the regular season sweep against the Brock Badgers 82-7. 

They earned a bye to the semi-finals where they beat the Badgers once again. The championship once again came down to the Gryphons and the Gaels. The Gaels took it definitively, 46-17. Sophie De Goede, a third year, No.8 and second highest scoring Gael of all time, was a massive piece of the Gael’s success. 

U SPORTS Women’s Rugby Championship Presented by the University of Ottawa
(PC: Greg Kolz)

This earned the Gaels their spot in the U SPORTS championship in Ottawa. They took on the Acadia Awewomen winning 55-19, then defeated the host Gee-Gees in the semi-final. They faced the Laval Rouge et Or in the national final. The Rouge et Or are dominant and physical. Laval controlled the play, but also took a yellow card for tackling a Queen’s player in the air. Queen’s battled for every try but were forced to settle for second after the Rouge et Or pulled ahead in the second half making the final score 22-14.

The women have the potential to be dangerous for seasons to come as De Goede will almost inevitably earn her spot in the Queen’s record book. And if history has shown us anything, there’s nothing more motivating for them than a second place finish. 

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