Story Braeden Willis / Vikes Images Erich Eichhorn / ISN
VICTORIA – For the second-straight year the UBC Thunderbirds captured the Spence McTavish Cup after a 21-10 victory over the Queen’s Gaels in the final of the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship presented by title sponsors, Victoria Mitsubishi and Carson Automotive Group, and corporate sponsors Pemberton Holmes Ltd. and the Canadian Rugby Foundation at Centennial Stadium in Victoria on Nov. 25.
“It was a tough game out there today,” said UBC head coach Curry Hitchborn in his first official year as head coach of the T-Birds. “Queen’s was remarkably well structured, extremely well disciplined and played their brand of rugby better than anyone else in country coming into this tournament. We knew we had to rely on our own self-discipline if we were going to compete today, which at times we didn’t. They made us pay at times for our mistakes but I am proud of every single one of our players efforts today.”
It took until the 44thminute for the Thunderbirds to score the first try and take the lead over Queen’s and never looked back from there.
“The momentum swung back in their favour once we let their forwards get back into the game,” said Queen’s head coach Dave Butcher. “We knew coming in the game they had a very strong forward pack and you saw it when they executed two driving line outs deep in our half. Those two moments really killed the game for us.”
It was a first half dominated by defence from both sides but Queen’s had the first opportunity to get on the board. Winger James Macdonald found fullback Lachlan Devir with a pop pass along the sidelines, Lachlan spirited 20-metres down the pitch but was caught by UBC fullback Cole Keffer just in time saving a try.
The Gaels finally broke the deadlock in the 22ndminute when flanker and former UBCOB Raven Trevor Helgason powered his way over the line after Queen’s patiently drove up the field. UBC looked to answer just minutes later but the Gaels forced a turnover just 1-metre away from their own goal line getting themselves out of trouble. With points hard to come by in the first half, the Thunderbirds settled with a penalty kick successfully made by scrum half William McDougall- Percillier in the 29thminute to go into the half time break down 7-3 to Queen’s.
McDougall-Percillier used the same boot for a second penalty goal in the 37thminute to pull the T-birds to within one of the Gaels but Queen’s answered back with three more points of their own off the foot of Dylan Young for a 10-6 lead.
The Thunderbirds wrestled the lead away from the Gaels in the 44thminute when a driving maul formed on the Queen’s 5-metre line and touched down by prop Joe Sourisseau. Just five minutes later, the T-birds once again formed a maul just a few metres away from the Queen’s goal line and it was Cole Keffer who put a beautiful step on Gaels winger Sam Ibbotson to score the try.
Down two scores and in desperate need of a try the Gaels Macdonald shot up and picked off a pass intended for UBC winger Elias Ergas but a knock on from Queen’s a few moments later would put the ball back in the hands of UBC up 18-10 with less than 10 minutes to play.
McDougall Percillier put the finishing touches on the UBC victory with a penalty kick in the 58thminute to seal the gold medal for the Thunderbirds and capture the Spence McTavish Cup for the second straight year. The 21-10 victory was capped off by the fact that seven T-Birds were named to the Championship XV – Nick Frost, Connor Sampson, Cali Martinez, James Carson, Michael Smith, William MacDougall-Percillier and Elias Ergas. For Queen’s Sam Ibbotson and Cully Quirke were also named to the team.