Rookie Clarke runs away with Mohawk’s rugby banner

Joel Clarke ran around the left side in the fourth minute of injury time for the winning try to give the Mohawk Mountaineers a thrilling 16-15 victory over the Humber Hawks in the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association Division One Rugby Championship at Fletcher’s Fields in Markham on Saturday (Nov. 14).

The run by the rookie scrum half from Sarnia St. Clair came just moments after Mohawk thought they had scored, but were ruled into touch before reaching the goal line.

Clarke, who was named player of the match for Mohawk and also collected Division One and West Region rookie of the year honours in the banquet following the match, said he felt an obligation to get the decisive try. “So I went, took the pass and ran around as fast as I could and dove for that line. It wasn’t stopping me I guess. I had it in my head to get across.”

Ironically, a knee injury to Clarke earlier in the second half contributed to the amount of time added on by the referee. But he recovered quickly. “I just didn’t want to get out of this game, really.”

Mohawk got on the board first with an unconverted try by Joshua Moore in the 24th minute. But Humber drew even on John Bianci’s try in the 31st minute. Also unconverted, it left the score 5-5 at half time.

Two penalty goals by Chris VanSickle early in the second half put the Mountaineers ahead by an 11-5 count. But Humber scrum half James Thompson got on the end of a kick and scampered in for a try converted by Rob Lefler to give the Hawks their first lead of the game, 12-11.

Lefler then kicked a penalty in the 33rd minute to make the score 15-11 for Humber. It stayed that way until Clarke’s late heroics. It was the third OCAA title for Mohawk coach Alex Paris and he said this one was the best, because it was the toughest final of the three. As for his team, even though they pulled it out mere seconds before the referee’s final whistle Paris said he did not give up on his team. “No, you never give up on these guys. (They) are workhorses, they’re competitors and they’re going to work and compete right down to that final whistle.”

Paris was named Division One Coach of the Year. Mohawk’s Steven Johnston was selected Division One Player of the Year and VanSickle was the division’s scoring champion.

Mountaineers Johnston and Adam Davidson were both named Division All-Stars.