KINGSTON, ON – The Queen’s Gaels women’s rugby team clinched their first-ever U SPORTS championship in the comfort (or discomfort due to the weather) of their own home Sunday afternoon. They defeated the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees 26-18 to capture the Molinex Trophy.
U SPORTS MVP Sophie de Goede put up a masterful performance, leading the way for Queen’s with a try, a conversion and three penalty kicks, including two kicks made in the final 15 minutes of the game. On a wet afternoon at Nixon Field at Queen’s, each team had high and low points in the match featuring spurts of defensive brilliance and offensive creativity.
The conditions in Kingston also made for many mistakes, and subsequently that offensive spark, early on in the match. Kianna Kozak got the scoring going five minutes in, by running in a try into the corner of the Ottawa end zone for Queen’s. About five minutes after that, the Gee-Gees’ Taylor Donato recovered a loose ball and took it to the house. Both tries were converted.
Moments after that, de Goede put in her bid for play of the tournament. Taking a pass about a dozen metres from the Ottawa end zone, de Goede booted the ball between Ottawa defenders. She recovered the kick, simultaneously touching it down for the score and a 12-7 Queen’s lead. de Goede, who also won MVP of the championships, extended that lead to 15-7 with a penalty kick minutes later.
The following 20 minutes were grittier for both sides. Both defensive lines were fantastic in sticking most hits while maintaining a proper defensive formation. On occasion, players slipped through for long runs up the field, but the following open-field tackles were fantastic. A lot of kicking happened in this time period too, throwing a wrench into each team’s attack at times.
Then, with seven minutes to play in the half, Ottawa shifted into another gear. They used a maul to gain nearly 10 metres on Queen’s following a line-out. A few phases later, Ottawa found a hole in the Gaels’ line and scored the try.
As time in the first half expired, Ottawa drew a penalty in the Queen’s end and elected to kick for points. Claire Gallagher drove the ball through the uprights to end the half.
Ottawa kept that momentum going to begin the second half, but that was short-lived. Queen’s dominated possession through a 10-minute span early in the half, mostly within 20 metres of the Gee-Gees’ end zone. It looked like Ottawa would be able to hold off the repeated Gaels attempts, but Jaden Walker ran a sneaky line toward the sideline to the left of Queen’s, slipping through to restore the host’s lead.
Play became back and forth, and very tackle-centric, over the phases following that score. This continued until just shy of the 65th minute, where Ottawa was penalized not far from their end zone. With the opportunity to put her team up by eight with a penalty kick, de Goede drove the kick through to do exactly that.
Gallagher of the Gee-Gees responded moments later with a penalty kick of her own. But with seven minutes left, de Goede nailed another penalty kick and restore the eight-point lead. Queen’s did an impressive job keeping the ball out of Ottawa’s hands in the final minutes, killing the clock along with the Gee-Gees’ championship hopes.
Queen’s capped off a near-perfect season with the win Sunday. Their only loss out of 10 games this season came at the hands of the Guelph Gryphons in the OUA final on Nov. 6.
While Guelph fell in the quarterfinals to the Victoria Vikes, Queen’s defeated the UBC Thunderbirds, before topping the defending national champions the Universite de Laval Rouge-et-Or in the semifinals. That match required two extra time periods to decide. Ottawa defeated Victoria in the other semifinal, which also went to a second extra time period.
The Vikes will host next year’s rugby championships next fall, followed by Laval in 2023.