Mohawk’s rugby team is forced to grow up fast
A big part of competing in the Ontario Colleges’ Athletic Association is dealing with the loss of players in key roles and developing new players to fill them. That is the situation head coach Alex Paris is in with the men’s rugby team.
“We have a lot of rugby to learn to play over the next couple of weeks and for us to be able to be consistent we just got to make sure that we have our new guys understanding what we’re doing,” said Paris.
With the loss of last year’s OCAA Player of the Year, Chris VanSickle, and veterans such as Joel Clarke out with injury — the team needs their newest players to learn their roles as quickly as possible.
One player that has embraced the role on his new team is scrumhalf Ross Isbister. Isbister has been called on to replace VanSickle as the team’s kicker — and the rookie took on the challenge, scoring all eight of Mohawk’s points in their 8-5 win over Fleming on Oct. 1.
“Considering we have a few new guys to the sport, first-year a lot of them, I think we played well,” said third-year player John Packer.
Throughout the game, Mohawk’s veterans and coaches could be heard yelling instructions and positional schemes to their inexperienced teammates.
The first half of the game went scoreless as both teams missed a penalty kick. Both teams moved up and down the field, but neither was able to solve the other’s defence — not until Isbister saw an opening.
A penalty awarded to Mohawk at the 20-metre line gave the Mountaineers a decision — attempt a kick or run the ball and go for a try. This is when Isbister saw a chance to step into his role and took advantage of it with a quick tap to himself and a scamper across the try-line for a 5-0 lead. Isbister failed to convert the try, but made up for it with a needed three-point kick that proved to be the difference.
With only a few minutes remaining in the game, Fleming was threatening deep in Mohawk territory. The Knights were able to swing the ball from the left side of the field to the right and back to the left for a try of their own in a last minute effort to tie or win the game.
After missing on their conversion, Fleming was deep in their own end needing a try in the dying minutes to salvage a win. Mohawk’s defence was able to withstand the pressure and remains undefeated after two games.
Paris says the key to moving forward is to understand each other’s role and realize this is a new team with an up and coming group of players.