Last year, the St. Thomas Tommies men’s rugby team had a strong end to its season with a second-place finish overall.
This year, head coach Jonathan Wilson hopes the team can build on its prior success and come out on top.
“The last few years have seen steady growth, and we hope for more of the same [in 2016],” said Wilson.
“The quality of our league is very high, and we fully expect to rise up to the challenges that come our way.”
The 2015 season was a strong one for the Tommies, who made their first appearance in the New Brunswick Maritime University ‘A’ finals in more than a decade and fell 53-16 to their cross-campus rivals, the University of New Brunswick Ironmen.
As this year’s season gets underway, Wilson said, he is quite happy with his team’s current status.
At the beginning of September, the Tommies participated in a week-long training camp, and they have been putting in hard work on and off the pitch.
The team is also working on building its current strengths while trying to weed out any weaknesses it may have.
Wilson said the goal for the season is to peak when it’s important and play harder in big situations.
“For that to work, nothing is more important than trust between every member of our team that we are all willing to commit,” said the coach.
Despite the Tommies’ hard work so far, they dropped their season opener last Wednesday against UNB at College Field by a score of 44-7.
It was a rematch of the 2015 championship game that began STU’s 2016 campaign.
The UNB win and the same 37-run margin that propelled the Ironmen to victory were the other common denominators last week.
“The result was not what we were hoping for,” said Wilson.
“But as a point in our season-long process, we are pleased with a lot of what we put forward.”
As a coach, it gives Wilson a glimpse of the Tommies’ strength and the potential they have this season.
The team’s 30-man roster added 11 new players this year, with the fly-half position being filled by rookie Cameron Gillis from Prince Edward Island.
Wilson said Gillis plays “an aggressive and smart game on both sides of the ball.”
Other rookies on the Tommies’ backfield that bring size and strength to the game are Andrew Steele, Peter Woulds and Zach Lakes.
Austin Comeau, a fourth-year centre player, is taking on the role as team captain.
“Justin Robar, Christian Lakes, Mikey Irvine and Mike Thurber are all filling leadership roles really well both on and off the field,” said Wilson.
On Sunday, the Tommies played their first home game of the season against the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers at Scotiabank Park South.
STU defeated the Panthers 29-15.
The Tommies and Panthers will rematch on the other side of the Confederation Bridge on Sunday, Sept. 25 with a 2 p.m. kickoff.
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