The University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds men’s rugby team beat the St. Thomas University Tommies 53-16 at College Field Nov. 7.
The loss finished the Tommies season placing them second in the New Brunswick Rugby Union University A-division.
Tommies backs-coach Matt Coffey felt despite their loss, the team played well.
“The boys played with heart. They came out with passion and hard work ethic,” said Coffey.
Coffey felt the score did not reflect how the game went. “We had a couple tough breaks. Our forwards did very well. We stuck to our game plan and put them under pressure in defence.”
“I’m really proud of this group of guys,” he said.
Despite the cold windy-conditions, around 100 fans including many of STU’s women’s rugby team who also finished their season in second, filled the benches and field sidelines as the battle-of-the-hill was about to begin.
Tommies fans showed up in greater numbers than the Reds and throughout the game were more vocal during game action.
The Tommies won the coin toss and decided to receive the ball from kickoff with the wind in their favour.
The Reds started the first half with a short kick that was caught by the Tommies who then kicked it up field and out of bounds past center field.
UNB gained possession and ran it 25 yards before getting rocked hard by STU.
After a few plays the ball found its way near UNB’s goal line and after some rucking, STU took control, passing the ball multiple times before being taken down by UNB.
A scrum at UNB’s two yard line forced the Reds to kick the ball which landed in Tommies possession at the 45 yard line.
The ball gradually made its way into STU’s territory and after a few minutes of tackles and scrums, UNB scored its first try of the game and landed the conversion kick making it 7-0 UNB.
Shortly later a whistle was blown and Tommies scrumhalf Johnny Cullen completed a conversion making it 7-3 Reds.
Further on in the game after a Reds was tackled to the ground a Tommie stripped the ball from his grip. Tommies pushed hard down the field, passing from player to player until a pass was dropped and recovered by UNB.
STU gained control and quickly kicked the ball 30 yards and was caught by the Reds who ran 30 yards and was tackled, but kept the ball in Reds possession.
The Reds were able to run the ball into the end zone scoring a try but missed the conversion bringing the score 12-3.
After a couple blown whistles by the officials a scrum ensued putting the ball in Reds hands but was stolen by a Tommie after a heavy tackle.
Another whistle was blown and the Tommies was given a conversion kick that was successfully completed by Cullen bringing the score 12-6 for the Reds.
Shortly later, the Reds were successful with another try by quickly running down the field diverting any major tackles and completed good passes to their teammates. The conversion kick landed five yards short of the uprights bringing the Reds 17-6.
After the Tommies kickoff, the Reds capitalized on ball possession and were able to run for 45 yards scoring a try and conversion.
The Tommies aggression level went up and they pushed the ball down into UNB territory but were continually stopped by the Reds who gave them no opportunity to score a try. They did get a conversion kick in the final minutes of the half bringing the score 24-9 for the Reds.
During the halftime break the Tommies assembled in a huddle as their assistant coach gave them words of inspiration for the second half.
“We got 40 minutes left, let’s shove it down their throats,” he said.
The wind died down in the second half as STU began with a short five-yard kickoff to UNB and was recovered by a Tommie.
After a tackle, the Tommies were able to ruck the ball into their possession and run it in for a try and kicking a conversion bringing the score 24-16 Reds.
UNB returned with a try but kicked the conversion wide making it 29-16.
After kickoff the Tommies ran the ball wide up the field as an assistant coach yelled, “Take the middle, take the middle.”
After a tackle the referee blew his whistle which almost led to a brawl on the field by players from both teams. Players pushed and cursed at each other but regrouped their composure and continued the game.
UNB dominated the rest of the game by not giving STU an opportunity to score again. The game ended 53-16 for UNB Reds.
Tommies Johnny Cullen who has been playing rugby since grade nine said the first half went really well. “Our defence was the key thing. We were doing all the simple things (we trained) in practice.”
In the second half, “We had a good start, we got that try right away,” said Cullen.
“We were working hard but we were out of position,” he said. “UNB took advantage and exploited the open space.”
I think we did everything right said Cullen.
“I think we played alright, it’s not a game of what ifs, it’s a game of rugby.”
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