M. Umair Farooq Khan
Christina Branch knew there was no way Humber’s rugby 7’s could lose their second game against Algonquin.
That’s because OCAA gold was on the line in the Nov. 3 final game at Sheridan Trafalgar campus in Oakville. The Hawks lost to Algonquin 10-7 on Oct. 14 and it was time to set the balance sheet straight this time.
“We were unbeatable all season and the only loss we had was against Algonquin,” said Branch, a fourth-year back. “We knew we had to stick to their players and get the gold.”
The Hawks got what they came for, defeating the Thunder 14-5 despite the game being played on a rival’s home ground in chilly temperatures, drizzle and with constant cheering for the Thunder by Bruins fans.
Cheyenne De Luca, a fourth-year back and the championship game’s MVP, said even though they played on the Bruins’ field, their fans weren’t a psychological threat.
“We weren’t afraid of facing the Bruins. They’re a good team but they didn’t score on us all season. Maybe that’s why they were rooting for Algonquin in the final match,” De Luca said.
The Hawks and the Thunder started the match aggressively with powerful tackles from both teams. The Hawks’ offence showed dominance despite facing the top defence in the province. But a good defence doesn’t guarantee a good offence.
The Hawks rarely allowed the Thunder to cross midfield, managing to grind the ball deep into the Thunder’s defensive zone.
Eventually, Renee Bowen grounded the first try for the Hawks while Tatiana Fitzgerald secured the conversion before going into the second half.
Algonquin responded with a try in the second half but was unable to secure the conversion. The Hawks were leading only by two points when the Thunder almost scored once again.
Humber back Hayley O’Donoghue made an impeccable diving tackle, denying Algonquin any points.
“I just kept running. I was scared but there was no way I was going to let them score,” O’Donoghue said.
Humber’s De Luca was successful in grounding another try while Fitzgerald made another conversion in the last minutes of the game securing Hawks’ victory.
O’Donoghue was named player of the match while fourth-year back Tatiana Fitzgerald and Branch were named to the championship all-tournament team.
Head coach Dale Essue, who improved the Hawks 5-1 in all-time post-season play, said he and his team felt confident facing the Thunder.
“We lost to Algonquin last time and the players really wanted to set the record straight this team and that’s exactly what they did,” he said. “I’m really proud of them.”