Going into their final game of the season against Royal Military College, the Brock men’s rugby team knew that there was no way to win themselves back in to playoff contention. The Badgers won just a single game in September. They were hoping to get one more win under their belts and end a disappointing season on a high note.
It looked hopeful for a while, and the men seemed to finally click. They worked tirelessly to drive the play up the field battling mud, rain and an opponent that seemed hellbent on breaking their spirits.
There were several instances where members of the RMC team would taunt the Badgers, provoking them physically and verbally. The attitude of the Badgers team was best expressed by one player who could be heard shouting that the best way to get back at the other team wasn’t to stoop to their level, but to “play rugby”. Their desire to win in a fair match was evident.
The Badgers were giving it everything they had left, and after a season of hard defeats, they managed to tie the score at 29 just before the end of the first. Even though a win would mean very little to the seasib in terms of the standings, it was a matter of pride to this young team that they would finish the season strong.
The Badgers played as a unit in the second half, communicating well and supporting one another. They made smart plays and came close to pulling ahead twice in the first five minutes but were denied by RMC’s defensive effort.
RMC put up 10 points in the back half and Brock was unable to answer.
The end of the game was controversial with two yellow cards being handed out to both Brock and RMC; in the final 10 minutes of play, a player from RMC was given a red card and ejected from the rest of the game. Many of the players and spectators were unhappy with the quality of the officiating. Coach Phil Sullivan simply shook his head and laughed, “You know, the ref’s a ref, I think he reffed a good game, and if you think he made a bad call, you can’t control that, you can only control your reaction”.
When Sullivan talked about his team at the beginning of this season, he was optimistic. He stressed the importance of watching players grow and develop. He also knew that this season wasn’t going to be easy and that the team was going to struggle to win.
The struggle was felt by the team who didn’t score at all in their first two games of October and played two games where they lost by more than one hundred points.
It would have been easy for this team to give up and come into this game resigned to lose but the energy from the Badgers on the sidelines was not that of a team who had accepted their fate, it was that of a team who truly believed they could win. Every successful play, every try, and every tackle, meant so much more to the Badgers because success was so much harder for them to come by.
“It was a good response to some of the poorer games we’ve had this season, shame we couldn’t pull out the win, but it was a good effort from the whole team,” said Sullivan.
Brock has a younger team, they’re smaller, and less experienced than most of the teams finishing near the top of the OUA standings this season.
“One of the main takeaways is that we’re a very young team, we’re still growing, so the future looks bright,” said Sullivan.
Brock was able to give chances to players who in any other season wouldn’t have seen a minute of varsity play, “Some of the guys who’d be playing more developmental minutes played varsity this year. Guys who’d be playing twos got an opportunity that helped them grow in the long run.”
At the beginning of the season, Coach Sullivan said that the team was going to be “fast and physical.” They may not have won the games that they hoped to but it would be unfair to say that they weren’t fast, and it would be an understatement to say that they weren’t physical.
The team seems to click like few other teams do. The older players step up when they need to, the younger players take every opportunity to learn. The chemistry is there, along with the desire to win. It’s only a matter of time before they get stronger and smarter and give the rest of the OUA a run for their money.