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A NOVEMBER TO REMEMBER FOR MANY REASONS

FORT ERIE, ONT. - November 11th is the day to remember those men and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. LEST WE FORGET!!!!
 
Saturday November 10th 1979 also holds a memory so dear to me I remember it like it was yesterday. That day McMaster’s second team took on Queen’s in the OUAA division II rugby final staged at York University.
 
I was 23-years-old and a second year arts student at McMaster. I was also a member of the starting 15 slated to suit up against Queen’s. My teammates and I had to collectively play the game of our lives. We did just that!!!
 
We kicked off with Queen’s at 12:30 pm. The first 10 minutes were hard hitting and fast paced; an athletic display of what any rugby match of this magnitude would be.
 
At the same time, we were “as tight as a drum.” We knew we could play well. We just had to relax. It was at this juncture that the brilliance of coach Neil McCartney came to the forefront. As the play neared the sideline, he told us “to relax and just have fun.” From then on, we did just that.
 
Early in the match Bob Maloney dished out one of his clean, but ferocious hits. My back was to the play but I would find out later, it was the turning point in the game.
 
As we began to play our game, I began to feed off the growing confidence of my teammates. Twice in our end, a scrum was called. Both times Queen’s enjoyed the put-in only to have Mark Scherer steal the ball, “against the head” on both occasions.
 
Each time I controlled the ball at the back of the scrum and orchestrated myself with Al Page to draw Queen’s offside. We then kicked safely for touch. We played a wonderful first half once we were able to relax.
 
But the score still remained 0-0. I think Queen’s must have felt the pressure. They were the obvious favourites, having beaten us in the regular season. Furthermore, Queen’s had enjoyed a longstanding rugby tradition in the OUAA. And their second side had thrown everything at us - the newcomers to the winner’s circle - only to have us deny them in that first half.
 
As a result, we came out a very confident group in the second frame. We forced Queen’s into a penalty and Gerald Giles broke the stalemate with a penalty-kick. We led 3-0.
 
Queen’s would later miss a chance to tie the game as their penalty kick fell short.
 
From then on, the game belonged to us. The dominance of our forwards in the scrum and lineout enabled Page to set up Pereira, Raiment and Henderson. Our three-quarter line tore up yards of real estate every time they touched the ball.
 
Seagram and MacLaren finished off many nice bursts while patrolling the sideline as if they owned it. Mike Gallo was a pillar of consistency at fullback kicking for touch while keeping Queen’s out of the endzone.
 
Consecutive penalty-kicks by Giles increased our lead to 9-0. A try midway through the half gave us a 13-0 lead and we knew the title was ours.
 
Several times in that second half, our scrum marched the ball up the field. The power of our front five - Maloney, Scherer, Locke, Cowman and Stungevicius - coupled with the support of our wing forwards -Giles and Gott - enabled me to control the ball at the number-eight position as we advanced the pigskin as if it were our personal possession. It was a feeling of control and dominance I’ve never forgotten.
 
John Giuga would later tell me that he was glad I didn’t play in 1980. He felt threatened that I would take his place on the first side. I felt really honoured by his words, in reality I could never have carried John’s rugby cleats, let alone supplant an athlete of his calibre.
 
Courtney King replaced an injured Graham Henderson midway through the second half and made his presence felt with a wonderful long run.
 
As our scrum manhandled the opposition in their end late in the game, Al Page picked up a nicely presented ball and darted 15 yards to paydirt. Giles converted as we reigned victorious 19-0.
 
Looking back, I believe our performance that Saturday of November 10, 1979 was the culmination of our collective performance as a club that season. Our collective play actually played like a well-orchestrated song, a newly penned composition that would eventually become the club’s longstanding anthem for the next 33 years.

 

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