Gryphons men’s rugby lose to the Royal College Navy Squad 22-0


Exhibition game brings entertainment and talent to Guelph

As part of an Ontario exhibition tour, a nation-diverse Britannia Royal Naval College rugby squad faced-off against the Gryphons men’s team on Thursday, April 6.

With the Royal Navy team playing a handful of athletes from around the world, the Gryphons faced a titan of diverse talent.  

The Royal Navy was well-formed, having just come off a 49-0 win against the Royal Military College in Kingston on Tuesday night.

The game began at 6:00 p.m. in near-freezing temperatures. The rain came down like a monsoon and the wind was violently breaking umbrellas and deterring kicks.

For many of the Royal Navy players, this would be their last game as their deployment into the British Navy will follow their return to Dartmouth.

They had the fervour of a team about to enter unknown seas in precarious regions.

The whole first half was played within the Guelph side of the field in a stagnant game of inches. The ball slipped through hands and players fell victim to the wet field, tripping and falling without being touched by the opposing team.

The first try came as the Gryphons were marching the ball towards the Navy’s side. A costly turnover on the left side of the field turned into a strategic kick for the Royal Navy up the right flank.

After two bounces, Royal Navy’s Tongan fullback caught the ball on the 25-yard line and streaked towards the right and then back to the left like lightning, finessing through every attempted tackle for a score. The conversion secured a 7-0 lead over the Gryphons.

Before the closing whistle of the first half, the rain turned to sleet and then to snow.

The flakes dropping were bigger than thumbs and covered the field in a blanket of white. The Royal Navy continued to put heavy pressure on Guelph before the whistle blew.  

The last few minutes left the crowd curled on their toes awaiting a try by the opposition that never arrived.

The Gryphons stood strong and two penalties on the try line pushed the Royal Navy team back on their heels. After one penalty, the Royal Navy’s Fijian centre looked up towards the sky with open arms consuming the full force of the Canadian winter.

The second half played out like the first, with the Royal Navy controlling the game from inside the Gryphons’ half.

Tasha Falconer

After an early try by the Royal Navy and a missed conversion, the Navy returned with a deep kick into the Gryphons try-area.

A scrum at the Gryphons’ 15-yard line was won by the Royal Navy and after a couple shovel passes towards the left, the eighth-man for the Royal Navy broke through the Gryphons’ defensive line like a truck, shedding tackles and heading into the try-line for a hoofing score.

Following the conversion, the Royal Navy was up a comfortable 19-0 lead.

The remainder of the game took place in the Gryphons’ half.

The Canadian boys appeared rusty and were no match for the determined, military-trained Navy rugby players.

As soon as the Gryphons would encroach on the Navy side, a kick would send the Gryphons back onto their heels again.

In the last few minutes of the game, a costly penalty on the 25-yard line would give the Royal Navy an easy centre-field kick to finalize the score at 22-0.

Despite the winter conditions, Gryphons head coach Cory Hector was in good spirits following the loss.

“You know what? Everybody played despite the weather,” said Hector. “I think the boys, looking back, will have fun. So, all and all, it’s a good run out before exams—a good stress buster.”

The Royal Navy coach thanked the Gryphons and spoke highly of Canada following the game.

“[It was an] awesome experience for everyone. I think some of the boys played in snow back at home now and again, very rarely, but considering the summer shining in the morning when we left Toronto,” the Royal Navy coach said. “It started to rain, then [the snow] happened. I think the boys stuck together and dealt with conditions. The [Royal Navy] boys were great, [the Gryphon] boys were great challengers. So, [we’re] really happy.”

After cleaning and warming up, both teams headed to the Brass Taps for a celebratory pint.

Photos by Tasha Falconer