Home field wasn’t enough of an advantage to propel the best two Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic high school rugby teams to victory against their opponents from Halton Tuesday (May 26).
The Cathedral Gaels dropped a 17-12 decision to Oakville’s Abbey Park Eagles in a Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference boys’ Triple A/Quad A rugby semi-final. Then, in the GHAC girls’ championship, the visiting Oakville Trafalgar Red Devils defeated the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves, 53-7, to earn a berth in next month’s Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations tournament.
Six-time defending champions of the HWCAA, Cathedral held a 12-7 second-half lead before the Eagles replied with a penalty kick three-pointer by Matt Peruzza, a Grayson Perry try and the second conversion of the contest by Peruzza.
Despite the loss, Eagles’ coach Tyler Leggatt said the Gaels were impressive.
“They played extremely well,” Leggatt said. “They were much more physical than we were, especially at the point of contact. They have some great athletes. They certainly knew what they were doing and put us under a lot of pressure.
“As soon as we got those points (penalty kick), that settled the boys down a little. We also had a great individual effort from our scrum half. He was able to dart through the middle to score the (last) try.”
Cathedral opened the scoring on a try by Anthony Laughing and a conversion by Igmar Ponce.
Abbey Park’s first try came on a 40-yard run by Malcolm Wallace.
The Gaels then regained the lead early in the second half. It came just after a scrum, on a 30-yard run by Stephan Smith, who also made several of the toughest tackles for Cathedral.
“It’s always hard playing against Oakville teams,” said Smith, a five-year veteran of the sport.
The Gaels, who finished the HWCAA regular season and playoffs with a combined record of 6-0, were missing a couple of players due to suspension from their league final against the St. Mary Crusaders, plus another who was injured. Said Cathedral coach Duane Davis: “We haven’t played a team of that calibre in a couple of weeks. They scored or made good territory off our mistakes. We relied too heavily on individual performances rather than a team concept. And we didn’t support our ball carriers as much as we needed to do to maintain possession.
“Abbey Park is a well-coached team … always near the top of the Halton league.”
In Halton, Abbey Park recently lost 50-0 to the Oakville Trafalgar Red Devils who will be their opponent in the GHAC final. The Red Devils, incidentally, have won top honours in Halton for 42 of the past 44 years. One of those championship game losses, however, came a few years ago against Abbey Park.
In the GHAC girls’ final, on Brebeuf’s new artificial turf, the three-time defending champion Braves also had their hands full against Oakville Trafalgar, the second-ranked team in Ontario.
“Based on track record, I was hoping for a little better result,” said coach Sebastian Krupinski, whose Braves lost only 31-18 to Oakville Trafalgar in last year’s GHAC title match.
“They have a lot of speed. They are very quick at moving the ball and very quick at getting themselves arranged in formations. Honestly, it’s the best program in Ontario for rugby.”
The lone try for Brebeuf was scored by Hannah Brown. Cassidy Noonan added the convert.
Sadie Stephenson accounted for four of OT’s tries. Abbey Henley added a pair of tries, while Rachel Semler, Steph Schooling and Melis Atalay added one try apiece. Mikela Lehan completed the scoring with four conversions.
Brebeuf, undefeated in the HWCAA this season, last week topped Christ the King Jaguars of Georgetown, 33-21, in a GHAC semi-final.