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The Griffins split two matches this weekend against the Dallas Harlequins. The Harlequins’ second side took the first of the day’s matches, 36-26, but the Griffins rebounded in the second match and took the win, 40-15, with their main side.
“It was a really positive day all around,” said Elaine Vassie, director of rugby for the Griffins. “Division II got their first league bonus point for four tries, which was a real comeback second half.”
That second-half comeback brought the Griffins within five points of their opponents with a chance at securing a losing bonus point as well, but the Harlequins made a last-minute strike that put that, and the match, out of reach. Though it wasn’t enough to secure get the win, the comeback was a sign of the progress made by the committed group of players.
“I think the guys have really enjoyed the technical development they’re getting and the support to develop that skill set to allow them to play,” Vassie said.
According to Vassie, since their club is relatively young, the depth to field a solid Division II side hasn’t always been there, but a committed group of players has formed and committed to the direction in which the Griffins are headed. This kind of steady improvement in the Griffins’ second side is what Vassie expected, a process that could have implications on the primary side in the future.
“When you look at Division II, it should be an opportunity for players to come through raw, get that game time and then progress through and have the opportunity to play that same style of rugby, get the same practice, and then the window is open for how they can develop moving forward,” she said. “As we continue to grow numbers in that squad there’s an exciting opportunity there for people.”
The Griffins’ Division I side had a much better day on the field, despite the wind and rain kicking up early in the match. Being a team that likes to free up the ball and allow their players to move it around, the conditions provided the Griffins with an extra challenge.
“We have a style of play we like to play but I think, ultimately, we didn’t get the ball out as much as we would have liked,” Vassie said.
Rather than pressure their opponents with continuous offensive play, the Griffins put the Harlequins on their heels with strategic kicking and snuffing out the ensuing counter attack. Flyhalf Daniel Carlton was given the responsibility of putting the Harlequins deep in their own end with his boot, while forwards Kyle Duarte and Christopher Gale ensured they didn’t make it far by pressing up hard and making their tackles. After making these tackles the Griffins often regained possession of the ball, allowing the Griffins to gain yards without using their usual tactics.
Normally, strategy and execution are given credit when a team has a successful match. Following up a successful match last week, the Griffins were in good spirits and Vassie believes that also played a part in this weekend’s success because players were able to not only see their progress but celebrate their success in the preceding week.
“I think the good feeling in the squad was the major positive,” she said. “We’re on the right path. It’s about each week just continuing to develop that.”
As the Griffins continue to develop, Vassie intends to help them keep an eye on their success and progress. She believes that enjoying and celebrating these victories along the way can help players keep going while progressing down a long term path.