Something worth celebrating

In the last game of the season, the King’s rugby team, which came first in the regular season, met its match: the cold. Its official opponent, St. Francis Xavier University (or, as it is commonly referred to, St. FX) managed to maintain its playing style despite the harsh weather, but unfortunately the skills of King’s rugby team were not compatible with the weather.

“It was a lovely day of sleet and hail, ridiculously cold and windy,” spectator Katherine McEwen said.

“It was one or two degrees, if even that,” said front row forward Justis Danto-Clancy. “I was frost-bitten from my fingers to my elbow – I still can’t feel them.”

Many players were similarly affected, but, despite the cold, the King’s team persevered and played as well as they could, considering the circumstances. “The other team was hiding in their bus,” said McEwen. “Our team was warming up and doing drills.” “Everyone had their game face on.” said first-year forward Tom Davison. Playing the first half against the wind, King’s was down by two conversions and a try by halftime. They didn’t lose hope, despite the fact that the game hardly reassembled rugby, and they caught up in the second half when Will Robinson scored two conversions.

“Everyone was frozen – the ball was frozen. It was intensely frustrating to see the ball you could catch any day fly off,” said Danto-Clancy who, when tackling, found himself in the bottom of a puddle, as if he were swimming. “I closed my eyes for a moment to rub the water off and I found my eyelashes frozen over,” said Gray Little, who played wing. “It’s the worst feeling to come off because you’re too cold, and not because you’re injured or the game is over. “

“The weather favoured their way of play– bone-headedness and blind crashing,” said Danto-Clancy. “We’re a creative, fast team – skilled, nimble, and above all, smart. But on days like Sunday, teams like St. FX do very well.” That is not to say that St. FX is a poor team, only that they play differently. “They rarely used their backs,” said Little. “They are very forward-oriented team, but the weather favoured forward play.” For our usually nimble team, who had beaten St. FX in the regular season in rain, it was a strange and punctuated game. “St. FX didn’t do anything technically illegal, but they did some things that you normally wouldn’t see,“ said McEwen. “Will Robinson hydroplaned into the sidelines. We just took a step back.” With the score at 12-10 for St. FX, it seemed that, despite the freezing rain and wetness, King’s had a chance. But, as the game drew to a close—cut short due to the weather—St. FX scored the last try.

And that was that.

Yet, despite the loss, there is still a silver lining for the players who saw this year as a victory, and are more determined than ever to bring back a medal next year. “A lot people were expecting a down year,” said Little, “but a lot of players upped their play.”

The King’s team, which rejoined the university league after five years in the now-defunct collegiate league, came in first in the regular season against more established teams. “We’re the smallest school by far,” said Danto-Clancy. “We thought we’d get our butts kicked, but we did very well.” Playing against schools with much bigger programs, King’s has really pulled through this year.

But those burly rugby players aren’t content with second place: it’s time for a championship. And King’s has the team to do it. “I see us being, at the very least, a contending team,” said Little. “I want to come back with a championship with my little brother next year.”

“We have good potential to go far” said Davison. However, King’s Rugby cannot expand alone. “King’s Rugby is intimately tied with Rugby in Canada: formalization and regulation” said Danto-Clancy. “It’s hard for small schools like King’s and Bishops to have a meaningful national championship.” After the game, the team returned to the wardroom for a celebration that was long and emotional. For some guys, this was their last season; for others, this was just the beginning. King’s ended a worthy season with what can only be called the most frustrating lost. But win or lose, there’s something worth celebrating.