The University of Saskatchewan Rugby Club made team history at the national tournament. While they didn’t take home any hardware, the team had new accomplishments, and although they aren’t currently supported by their university, this tournament was a great step forward in their growth.
Going into the tournament, Mike Sheinin, coach for the team, was optimistic and excited to see the team’s performance while remaining realistic about their position going in. In a social-media interview with the Sheaf, Sheinin explains that they are “trying to keep pressures low, but it’s tough when the team has such high hopes.”
Sheinin broke down the teams’ performance, starting with the men’s squad, stating that they played solid rugby outside of a few mental mistakes. Even with a solid game overall, these few mistakes can cost the team in a big way as both of their first games saw mistakes get turned into 14 points for the other team.
Additionally, the U of S team had one of the toughest pools to play through — including the hosts of the tournament, the Royal Military College of Canada.
“We’ve never beaten RMC at nationals before,” Sheinin said. “They are a big, hard-running team that likes to keep it tight. Because of our first two games and what we know of RMC, we decided to change our gameplay a bit. We started our two biggest and hardest runners, Louis Carter and Harrison Kryczka. We told them to just run hard if they get the ball. Don’t pass, just smash the other team and play hard Sask. rugby.”
On the women’s side of the tournament, Sheinin explains that they had a similar start and made some costly mistakes, but one of their veterans, Kristine Lovatt, was trying her hardest from the start. The coaches had to rile up the team for their third game of the tournament, which resulted in them coming away with a huge accomplishment.
“The women played a very athletic Humber team and outplayed them the whole game, winning by 3 points,” Sheinin said. “Lovatt again had a great game and made an unbelievable try-saving tackle to save the game. The women haven’t won a game at nationals since they beat Regina in 2016.”
After pool play was playoffs, and the men got their playoff run started by taking on the Concordia University Stingers — a favourite going in. While the U of S team lost in the end due to Concordia capitalizing on their mistakes, Sheinin views the game as an achievement.
“Everyone watching was cheering for us as the underdogs playing outstanding rugby. We did everything right for 13 minutes and 40 seconds throughout the 14-minute game,” Sheinin said. “We lost 19-12, which was the closest game Concordia had at the tournament.”
The men’s team then had to play the Quebec Selects, a team they had lost to in pool play, and would drop the game by a close margin of two points, finishing in seventh place in the country.
The women’s team also had a good playoff run that could have gone differently if it weren’t for a few mistakes.
“They played a perfect game against St. Lawrence College and won 35-0. Their final game was a pure heartbreaking loss to Western. We played strong, and like the men, only had two minor mistakes, but those cost us greatly as we only lost by 2,” Sheinin said. “The women proved it to the rest of the tournament, but mostly to themselves, that if they go into these games with the right mindset, we can compete with any team.”
While neither team will be bringing back anything new for the trophy case, the tournament was still a large success. Sheinin explains that the team received recognition for the lack of funding they have to operate within.
“Our men showed everyone at the tournament that U of S rugby is the real deal. As coaches, we were hearing from every other team’s coach about how impressed they were with our team. Everyone was so amazed that we weren’t a university-funded and recognized team. Actually, we were the only team in the top eight [that] wasn’t university funded or recognized.”
Jack Thompson / Sports & Health Editor
Photo: Riley Deacon / Photo Editor, File