Quins see sil­ver lin­ing

Brant­ford men’s rugby team topped in Cana­dian club cham­pi­onship fi­nal

The Expositor (Brantford) - - SPORTS - BRIAN SMI­LEY EXPOSITOR STAFF

De­spite fall­ing in fi­nals for two straight weeks, Brant­ford Har­lequins men’s rugby coach Dave Neill is look­ing at the bright side.

“The re­sults are dis­ap­point­ing but that’s sports,” said Neill, whose team lost in the Mc­Cormick Cup pro­vin­cial cham­pi­onship on Sept. 29 be­fore los­ing in the Cana­dian Rugby Club Cham­pi­onship on Sun­day.

“As much as guys were dis­ap­pointed to lose in back-to-back fi­nals, it was great to have been there.”

And even though the re­sults weren’t what the team had hoped for, its record over the past three sea­sons has been be­yond ex­cep­tional.

Brant­ford, the two-time de­fend­ing Mc­Cormick Cup champs, were hop­ing for a third straight ti­tle late last month but those hopes were dashed with a loss to the Markham Ir­ish.

How­ever, the Har­lequins had a shot at re­demp­tion at the Cana­dian cham­pi­onship, which was be­ing held for the first time in more than a decade.

Brant­ford qual­i­fied for the Cana­dian cham­pi­onship week­end with a win in the quar­ter­fi­nals against Mon­treal in early Septem­ber.

First up for the Har­lequins in B.C. at the Cana­dian cham­pi­onship on the week­end were the Ed­mon­ton Nor’Westers, who Brant­ford beat 34-18 in the semi­fi­nals.

Neill said his team played well against Ed­mon­ton, get­ting over mis­takes made in the Mc­Cormick Cup fi­nal.

“No doubt we were up against a tough team and I think that game took a lot out of us.”

Neill said Ed­mon­ton has a large, phys­i­cal pack and many of those for­wards were named to the tour­na­ment’s all-star squad.

Next up in the fi­nal were UBC Old Boys Ravens.

In B.C., teams are just get­ting their sea­sons un­der­way while On­tario teams are fin­ish­ing theirs. Neill said the Ravens had al­ter­nated with games and byes to start the first four weeks of their sea­sons.

“They had 30 play­ers and started five fresh play­ers in the fi­nal . . . but they were a bet­ter team,” Neill ad­mit­ted.

“The score­line def­i­nitely got away from us.”

With a cou­ple of min­utes left in the first half of the cham­pi­onship, Brant­ford was down 14-3 and push­ing to score. But, the ball ended up go­ing all the way down to the Har­lequins end and fol­low­ing a late con­verted try by the Ravens, the deficit was 21-3.

“That was about all the gas we had, re­ally,” said Neill, whose team wound up on the wrong side of a 41-3 de­ci­sion.

“We’re still happy with the rugby we played,” the coach said. “Watch­ing the games and look­ing at the sta­tis­ti­cal break­down, we’re still ac­com­plish­ing a lot of things that we set out to do.

“And we’re still play­ing a game the fans en­joy and we can be proud of.”

Neill said his play­ers en­joyed the ex­pe­ri­ence in B.C. and were thrilled that some fans trav­elled to see them play. Now they can now start think­ing about next sea­son, with train­ing ramp­ing up in Jan­uary.

Neill said team has a solid foun­da­tion for suc­cess.

“We’ve built a re­ally good cul­ture in Brant­ford,” he said.

“I think we’ll look to con­tinue to push the level and raise the pace of the game.”

We’ve built a re­ally good cul­ture in Brant­ford.” Har­lequins coach David Neill

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

The Brant­ford Har­lequins re­cently re­turned from B.C. where they won sil­ver at the Cana­dian Rugby Club Cham­pi­onship.

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