Autumn is upon us and that means two, and only two things—pumpkin spiced lattes at Starbucks, and rugby.
The Mustangs men’s rugby team is already 1-1 this season—with a 40-3 win against the Waterloo Warriors and a 12-5 loss to the Guelph Gryphons. And tomorrow, when the Mustangs head to Kingston, they will face the very team that they defeated in last year’s Ontario University Athletics championship—their rivals, the Queen’s Gaels.
“It’s going to be a tough hard-fought battle like most games with Queen’s usually are,” Steve Thomas, head coach for the Mustangs, said.
The Mustangs will have a lot on their plate against Queen’s tomorrow. A big difference between last year’s OUA finals and this time around is that last year, the purple and white had the pleasure of playing at TD Waterhouse Stadium. Unfortunately, Western didn’t get so lucky this time, as the Mustangs will challenge the Gaels tomorrow on Queens’ home turf.
“They’ve got home-field advantage. It’s huge,” Thomas explained.
However, the Mustangs were able to dodge a bullet, as this Saturday was also supposed to be Queens’ homecoming—which means a sold-out, hostile crowd.
“It’s huge. The fortunate thing for us is that it was supposed to be Queen’s homecoming this week, but that has been pushed back a week,” Thomas said. “So we will still deal with a hostile crowd, but perhaps not as hostile as they would have been on homecoming. It plays a huge part.”
“But we’ll be going over there with a game plan in mind and we’ll stick to the game plan and se what happens,” he continued.
If playing away from home and dealing with travel fatigue weren’t enough, the Mustangs are rusty and are also missing some key cogs in the machine that was their championship winning team from a year ago.
“We’ve only had a month together, so we’re still a bit rusty,” Thomas said. “We’re still dealing with a number of injuries, and also to add to that, we have three people away with the Ontario Blues—which is the provincial team—so they’re not available to us,” Thomas said. “But you know, we have some good guys, we’ve got a strong squad.”
However, regardless of what their record is after this game and whether they win or lose against the Gaels, Thomas and the rest of the Mustangs know that the season is far from over.
“With the guys we have on the team, they’re really focused and willing to learn. We know we have some key players out, but we know that they will come back,” Thomas said.
“So if we happen to go 1-2 against Queen’s, we know the season is not done because we’ve got returning players, and it gives us a number of weeks to build for those key games. So it’s not over until the fat lady sings…or in my case, the fat guy.”