With the semester nearing its end, the leaves changing colour, and the temperatures beginning to dip, it’s finally time for sports to take in its last breath of fresh air and make its way indoors for the remainder of the school year. Sunday, November 9 marked the beginnings and ends of UTM intramural and tri-campus seasons with Super Sunday at UTM, a name coined by the RAWC to highlight the six games that took place on one day.
Along with the home openers for the men’s and women’s tri-campus volleyball and women’s Division 1 basketball teams, three UTM teams played a semi-final or final matchup. To quickly recap, the women’s tri-campus soccer team fell 2-0 to St. George Black, while the men’s tri-campus soccer team won 2-1 against UTSC to move on to the finals.
But while these games were being played on the North Field, an unforgettable match was taking place on the South Field for a sport that does not receive as much attention as those previously mentioned.
The UTM men’s rugby team were playing in the final against Skule, a team made up of engineering students from the St. George campus. For those who have been paying attention to the UTM rugby team for the past few years, this matchup was a highlight in the rivalry between the two squads.
Over the past three years, UTM and Skule have met in the finals each time, with Skule coming out on top in 2012 and 2013. But the third time proved to be the charm for UTM, who came out victorious with a 17-7 win over Skule to give UTM rugby the Division 1 title.
For head coach and computational sciences professor Craig Burkett, the victory was even more satisfying. In only his second year as coach of the rugby team, Burkett succeeded in a rugby league he is very familiar with. A former engineering student himself, Burkett played on Skule as an undergrad, holding the position of intramural sports chairman for two years. “It felt great as the clock ticked down,” says Burkett. “Especially since I still know quite a few players from my time playing with Skule, or from club rugby in the summer.”
Burkett was mainly happy to share the victory with the veterans on his team, who were able to achieve victory in their final year of university after experiencing defeat for the past two years.
For Jiwoon Kim, revenge against Skule was the greatest gift he could ask for, “The rivalry that UTM has developed with Skule is awesome,” says Kim, a fourth-year management specialist. Kim admits that losing to Skule over the past years “left a sour taste in [his] mouth”, but after making a vow to his team that they would come back from their defeat, Kim was excited to finally accomplish that goal. “Last year, when our team was down from the loss, I told the returning veterans that we will play Skule in the finals the next year and take care of unfinished business,” Kim said. “It was very rewarding to see the championship come back to UTM.”
The team that took to the field this year had a balance of returning and new players, with a few more of the former. But the team knew their competition well and had an existing chemistry with the other guys on the field, which helped come game time. “Experience in rugby is worth more than athleticism,” says Burkett. “It’s valuable to have players who have played with each other.”
The team also has an overall perfect record.
“This year, we collected some new and positive players and ironed out some of the rugby basics,” says Paul Devenish, a fifth-year math and physics major. “Working on the basics rather than extravagant plays helped our athletic rookies shine.”
“Coach Burkett has said this many times throughout the year, but we really had the most complete team in years,” said Kim. “There were a lot of new players that were eager to learn, and they picked up the plays and game plans very quickly, which was evident in the chemistry on the field.”
“I think we had success this year because everyone was positive and willing to learn,” says Jean-Marc Kawaya a fifth year economics major whose performance was praised by Coach Burkett. “Everyone did their part and dug deep to pull it off.”
With five of the 30 players on the team graduating at the end of this school year, expect the rugby team to continue its domination of Division 1 for years to come. Another perfect season does not seem like a lofty goal anymore—it’s a reasonable expectation.