The University of New Brunswick Ironmen rugby squad defended the Maritime championship Saturday at College Field.
UNB downed the St. Francis Xavier University X-men 26-15.
“Winning the Maritime finals just goes to show us how our hard work, dedication and determination throughout the season has paid off,” third-year inside centre Matt Blain said. “It is a proud day to be an Ironman, and the season was a fantastic experience with the best possible outcome.”
The championship came on the heels of a successful season for the Ironmen. They defeated the St. Thomas University Tommies 53-16 for the New Brunswick championship on Saturday, Nov. 7.
“Every game is important,” said Blain. “But it means a lot anytime you have a chance to play in a championship game with a title on the line, and we were lucky enough to win.”
Blain acknowledged the rivalry between the Ironmen and Tommies, and he said it was nice for UNB to beat their archrivals on a scale like the provincial finals.
“Although the rivalry is fierce, people at the two schools are often good friends, living together and being a part of the same social circles,” he said. “However, it’s always nice to have the bragging rights for your school’s triumph over the rivals of the hill in your back pocket ready to use in conversation.”
The Ironmen went undefeated in three matches during the 2015 regular season. They outscored their opponents by a margin of 178 points to 12.
Blain said UNB’s perfect record is like a double-edged sword.
“It’s great for team morale and proves your dedication to the season,” he said. “But there is always that stigma of a loss coming on the biggest stage.”
While offense may not have been hard to come by, Blain said, chemistry was another highlight of the Ironmen’s season.
“As a group, the team played impressively the whole season, consistently working each week in practice on improving fundamentals and new skills,” he said. “The team worked hard to be in position to receive offloads or ruck over teammates as well as defensively supporting the tacklers and helping to bring down the ball carrier when needed.”
Blain said that was in spite of having several new players on the team, including himself.
“The senior and returning players did an excellent job of bringing everyone up to speed,” he said. “I’m proud to have played alongside my teammates this season, as the team’s depth has been unbelievable.”
Blain said that, due to the rough nature of the game, injuries are inevitable. However, he said UNB had players stepping up and performing well in the absence of key players who were battling injuries.
“Anytime you are a part of a team where you have trust in the guys on either side of you, you’re bound to play at a higher level collectively,” he said.
One particular player with whom Blain was impressed this year was Brandon White, who scored six tries in one game.
“The guy went beast mode and was unstoppable,” he said. “Another memorable event was Noah Morton’s savage stiff arm, which had the entire team amped up and jumping around.”