“We really came as a team”: Marauders women’s rugby improving amid defeat to Gryphons

Hamilton, ON- McMaster Marauders women’s rugby head coach Chris Jones knows the reality of the situation when his team faces the powerhouses in the OUA.

“We know that the Guelph, Queen’s games are going to be games we’re going to be more learning than winning,” Jones noted. “That’s okay so we can use them that way.” 

The Guelph Gryphons and the Queen’s Gaels have stood atop the OUA. Last season, McMaster lost to Guelph 86-5 and Queen’s 96-3. This season, while the result was the same – a 48-8 defeat to the Gryphons on Sept. 8 – the performance was a positive.

“I’m really proud of the team. I’m really proud of how we came together,” Marauders co-captain McKinna Colley said. “Today we really came as a team and was like a star team.” 

McMaster kept most of the possession in the first 10 minutes or so before Guelph broke through for a couple of tries. Jones said they’ve focused on running a new offensive system that is more expansive and about ball control. New backs coach Kyle Knight has “ejected some flavour into it,” according to Jones. 

It’s taken time for them to get the system going, having not clicked against the Western Mustangs in their season opener, according to Jones. There were mistakes made. 

“We regrouped over the week and we’re like, ‘no, we’re not throwing the system out’,” Jones recalled. “We just got to make sure we don’t let that, those mistakes get to us.”

Meanwhile, their defensive system remained the same. “It involves a lot of hard work,” Jones said. “The more you put into it, the more you get out of it.”

In Jones’ second season, the players are starting to understand it better. That comes from the veterans teaching the younger players about it. “That’s huge because I’m not the only one who’s doing it,” Jones said. “There’s other people who are helping them get the system.” 

Their hard work and defensive system was on display against the Gryphons. After Guelph went up 12-0, McMaster won a penalty goal as Chayse Palfi kicked it through the uprights for three points. The home crowd roared in applause. 

The Marauders celebrate scoring a try (Photo: Kevin Lassel/McMaster Athletics)

Even as the visitors started to pull away, McMaster fought back. Osa Olaye scored a try in the second half as the Marauders kept their share of the possession. 

Colley told the team before the game: it’s okay if we win or lose but the only thing she’d be disappointed in them is if they gave up. 

“No one gave up,” Colley noted. “Everyone was running back after they scored a try. No one was got down on each other or got resentful. We just came back as a team each kickoff.” 

A constant theme from their game against Guelph compared to their Western game: improvement. In how they kept possession. In their team cohesion. In their mentality.

Jones remembers seeing how the players got in their own heads after Western scored their tries. “Then we couldn’t quite play our game and we were playing to them,” he noted. “That’s a killer in this sport.” 

Against Guelph, they played their game, according to Jones. He sees in his players attitudes and emotions. “They’re happier this week and feel like they played to the best of their ability,” he added. 

After reaching the OUA playoffs last season, the Marauders now face a significant stretch in the season should they hope to return to the playoffs. They are 0-2 before facing Waterloo, Trent and Toronto. Then, they visit Queen’s to end the season.

Jones called it a hard schedule but said, as a coach, he likes the fact that in every game, his team will have to be up for the challenge. 

“It’s not an easy season,” he said. “We’ve got to try and hang onto that playoff spot and hope that by the time we hit the quarters, we’re hitting where we want to be development-wise.” 

Featured Image: Kevin Lassel/McMaster Athletics

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