Gaels be-Deviled in rugby final

The Oakville Trafalgar Red Devils had just defeated the visiting Cathedral Gaels for the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference senior boys’ rugby championship when Dan Pletch was asked by a reporter how he felt about the outcome.

“I suppose I have a bit of mixed feelings,” the assistant coach of the Red Devils said of OT’s convincing 36-0 decision over the previously unbeaten Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic champions on Wednesday (May 29).

The Oakville Trafalgar Red Devils demonstrate their strong defense and experience to the Cathedral Gaels. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

Pletch, you see, has Hamilton connections. He graduated from McMaster University after playing on three of Mac’s Ontario University Athletics rugby title squads before serving as an assistant rugby coach at the school. And soon, he’ll be accepting an even more significant role.

“This is Phil White’s last year (as McMaster men’s rugby head coach),” Pletch said. “I’m taking over next year.”

Obviously, Pletch would like to see all Hamilton high schools begin to churn out more university talent for the sport. The HWCAA boys’ league is still in its infancy, however, with only five years under its belt.

“Cathedral has made a lot of progress,” Pletch said. “They’re getting stronger. They gave us a good, hard game.”

The Red Devils got off to a fast start, scoring tries against the Gaels in the first 30 seconds of each half. Alex Fulton led the Red Devils with 11 points from a try and three conversions. Brandon Stegmaier added two tries, while single tries went to Blake Sullivan, Brendan Dickie and Sam Borden. Max Fulton booted the other conversion.

“Rugby is pretty new to Hamilton,” Cathedral’s scrum half Aidan McGrath said. “We’re getting up there (in calibre with other leagues) but we’re not there yet.”

Pletch, 30, played six years for the Canadian senior men’s national team. He also suited up professionally for a club team in France. And at Oakville Trafalgar – it’s his first year coaching there – he’s part of a Red Devils program that has won Halton Secondary School Athletic Association championships in 41 of the last 43 years.

“We concentrate on moving the ball quickly from sideline to sideline,” Pletch said. “We’re a bit undersized, so we try to play a fast-paced game to get bigger teams tired out running around the field.”

According to Pletch, rugby is the most popular sport at OT. He says there’s a rugby culture at Oakville Trafalgar and incoming Grade 9 players receive a solid foundation of instruction from the coaching staff.

“They had a lot of speed,” McGrath said of the Red Devils. “Our defence was strong. We didn’t let them through easily.”

Cathedral coach Paul Hahn agreed that the young Gaels, despite the score, played well defensively against a team he believes is one of the top three in the province.

Oakville Trafalgar advances to the OFSAA tournament June 5-7 in Ottawa.

At the GHAC senior girls’ rugby championship at Brebeuf on Wednesday, the defending OFSAA champion Oakville Trafalgar Red Devils topped the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves 33-5.

The lone try for previously undefeated Brebeuf was scored by Alize Spalding-Lawrence.

“They are a powerhouse,” Brebeuf coach Sebastian Krupinski said of the Red Devils. “Basically, it was David vs. Goliath. We were doing great. At the half, they had two tries and we had one (14-5). Unfortunately, we sustained some injuries in the second half which basically cost us the game.

“It was a pretty respectable for a second-year team like us.”

The Red Devils qualify for the OFSAA tournament June 3-5 in Waterloo.