Warriors earn rugby split on Black and Gold day

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It’s become a tradition that brings Warriors from all generations out to celebrate. While 13,000 first-year students filled Warrior Field’s bleachers for the annual Black and Gold day festivities, upper-year students and alumni were present and cheering just as loudly as the latest instalment of the “University Avenue rivalry” took place with a men’s and women’s rugby doubleheader against the Laurier Golden Hawks.

The men’s team kicked off the party losing a tightly contested match, 29-11. The Warriors led at half, but the Golden Hawks’ tries in the 60th, 68th, and 75th minute sealed the game for the visitors in the final quarter.

Despite the loss, freshman Mitch Voralek continued to show why he was such a sought-after commitment from the UW program.

Accounting for all 11 Warriors points, he converted two first-half penalties before breaking through the Laurier defensive line from 50 yards out just before half to put the Warriors up 11-5.

A series of bad passes from the Warriors led to the Golden Hawks scoring right on the stroke of halftime, but a missed conversion ensured the Warriors took the lead into the interval with a score of 11-10.

Waterloo started the half strong as third-year flanker Peter Squire broke through the Laurier back line early, only to be stopped just short of the try line. 

The blustery conditions started playing with the Warriors. After their promising start to the half, the Warriors spent most of their time on the back foot, unable to gain traction on their passes or lineouts as the wind carried the ball around the field.

The Warriors’ defensive line held solid throughout the Golden Hawks’ offensive assault. After a 60th-minute breakthrough, Laurier opened the floodgates and ensured they’d take all five possible points after putting up five tries in the contest.

The Warriors fell to 0-2 on the season, but after a 71-17 drubbing at the hands of rugby powerhouse Queens in their opener, this result felt like a step in the right direction.

“I think we played a hard-fought and physical game,” said Voralek post-match. “We had some strong phases of play and played well defensively for most of the game.”

“I think we just need to mesh more as a group and improve organization in our attack,” Voralek stated when asked about what the team needs to do to achieve a better result next week. “We’ve seen what we’re capable of and we just need to maintain that aggression throughout the game.”

Waterloo hosts OUA-newcomer Trent Sept. 18 at 3 p.m.

The second half of the doubleheader saw women’s head coach Rebecca Delaney make her anticipated debut as the women’s rugby team kicked off their season.

It was a debut the Warriors rugby program won’t soon forget.

Delaney’s team rallied to secure a 29-7 victory, the program’s first victory since 2014’s  31-7 victory over the same Golden Hawks. The Warriors’ winless streak was sitting at six games, with a draw against Brock the only result the team achieved last season. Last year’s Waterloo-Laurier game finished in a 52-17 domination for the Golden Hawks.

With the Golden Hawks controlling play early on and taking a 7-0 lead after a third-minute conversion, it looked like the match was heading towards another Laurier trouncing.

Apart from the early mistake, the Warrior’s defensive line held firm and weathered the Laurier attack. A 12th-minute breakthrough of the Laurier defensive line by winger Danielle Duncan changed the fate of the match for Waterloo. It flipped the field in favour of the Warriors and they never looked back.

Eleta Mitton scored the Warrior’s first try of the season in the 17th minute. After the Warriors defended another strong Golden Hawks attack, Teodora Lalatovic blocked a clearance attempt and pounced on the loose ball to give the Warriors a 10-7 lead heading into halftime.

Kayley Jacobs started the second half strongly for Warriors, a forceful push leading to a 46th-minute score. Natalie Yeung secured her first conversion of the season to get her campaign going and the Warriors led 17-7.

A mere two minutes later, Yeung chased down a Warriors clearance and took it 55 yards, untouched to the house. After she converted again, Waterloo was feeling comfortable with a 24-7 lead.

With Laurier down a player after a 69th-minute yellow card, Jessie Brush put the final nail in the coffin with a 70th-minute, running the unanswered point total to 29.

With the win giving them four points, and the five tries adding one more to their standing, the season could not have started better for the Warriors’ team, as they earned all five possible points. After securing only two points the entire last season, Waterloo looks to be in good shape moving forward.

The women’s team heads to Alumni Field in London Sept. 17 to take on the Western Mustangs for a 1 p.m. kickoff. 

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