Written By: Chris Perotte
Photo Credits: Leighton Chong
It’s 2:40 pm on Sunday April 1, 2018.
On Field One inside the Hangar at Downsview Park, two teams stand in a circle around referee Courtney Bishop, and head of Canada Touch Rugby Steve Shortly. The two teams are moments away from competing in the Grand Finale for the CTR Championship trophy. They are receiving the following instructions:
“We are going to try to keep the pace fairly quick. So when you’re touched and you stop ahead of the ball that’s fine, just roll it back. If you don’t roll it back, we’re going to set the defensive line where it [the ball] sits,” explains Bishop. “Make sense?!”
The players from each squad nod their heads and say yes in agreement to the rules being set out. Steve Shortly chimes in with additional instructions:
“Whatever the ref says and does this game, respect it,” instructs Shortly. “Don’t put your arms in the air and complain. Let’s just play on and have some fun here! Congrats on making the finals. Let’s play some rugby!”
“Good luck!” the respective players relay to one another. Approximately 20 minutes from the time of the opening whistle, we will have a champion.
The question remains, who will it be?
The Canada Touch Rugby (CTR) Playoffs is the combination of 8 teams that represent three leagues under the umbrella of CTR. The top two/three teams from the respective leagues from Upper Canada College, Burlington, and The Hangar have come together to compete for bragging rights and the ultimate prize. The teams battling for supremacy were the One-Hitters, Pathetifish, Bohica, Victorious Secret, Bay St. Gormandizers, The Beers, Bohica Goons, and the 2017 defending CTR Champs, Tigers B.
Tigers B showcased their dominance early as reigning champs by crushing the Bay St. Gomandizers 12 to 2 on Field Two in the opening round of the playoffs, thus moving on to the semi-finals to face Victorious Secret.
I sit among the Tigers B and chat with Matt Wolfe, captain of the squad. His nickname on the team is Ice. He says he is called Ice because he’s cool. His teammates laugh and say jokingly that he gave himself that nickname.
I ask Wolfe what the chances are of Tigers B repeating as champions.
“We’re missing a couple of guys due to the holidays, and there are some pretty good teams out here,” says Wolfe. “I think we got a pretty solid squad and I’m confident we will come away with a W [Win] at the end of the day.”
The Tigers B represent the Upper Canada College league. Wolfe explains what would be some of the keys for team to have a successful playoff here at the Hangar.
“This field is a little bit wider than what we see at U.C.C, so just patience. You can play a little bit softer and give them the edge in order to recover on defence,” says Wolfe. “In terms of offense, you just got to keep the space, crisp hands, good passes, and that’s really it.”
On Field One, the One-Hitters edge the Pathatifish 5 to 4 to advance to the semi-finals where to face the Beers.
Last year, the One-Hitters were eliminated in the semi-finals. This year they hope to make it to the finals to become the 2018 CTR Champs.
I speak with the Captain of the One-Hitters, Steve Piatek, and ask him what would be the key for his team to make it to the finals. “We keep a strong defence, go forward on attack and on defence, and complete as much as we can,” says Piatek.
Time for Semi-Final Action
The One-Hitters and the Beers battle for 20 minutes in an evenly matched game. From the sidelines you hear teammates from both squads shouting out reminders of what needs to be done to win the match.
Back and forth, the One-Hitters and the Beers exchange points. With approximately five minutes left, Steve Shortly of the Beers intercepts a pass and bolts to the end zone to score a try, tying the game at five to five. Sadly, the Beers are unable to capitalize on the momentum shift, so lose the game 7 to 5. The One-Hitters have advanced to the finals.
“When we first came into the game, the One-Hitters were ranked number one [in the Burlington league], so we knew they would be tough competition,” says Shortly. “So we actually had an early lead and came out strong. We knew we had to play a full 20 minutes and we didn’t. When I intercepted the try, there was about five minutes left and it gave us a shot. But at the end of the day, they just played a lot better defence than we did and played better as a team. So, congrats to them.”
In the second semi-final match the Tigers B square off against Victorious Secret. After a hard fought 20-minute match, the Tigers B pull away with a 5 to 1 victory, thus advancing to the finals for a third straight year.
“[Feels] pretty good. Feels just like last year. That was a hard-fought game. We played those guys a few times this year, and I think that was the best game of the season,” says Tigers B member Ethan Wolfe.
Even with the lopsided score, it doesn’t represent how evenly matched they were through portions of the game. Ethan Wolfe shares the key to the Tigers B victory.
“Fitness. They played us even for the first 10 minutes or so and then I think we were just the fitter team. Finding the holes [in their defence],” says Wolfe. “Fitness won the game for us, I think.”
One More Match
The stage is set for the CTR Grand Finale. The Tigers B will defend their title against the One-Hitters.
I sit among some of the members of Victorious Secret in the stands as they watch the final game of the afternoon. They make sure to teasingly remind the Tigers B from the sidelines that they’re lucky to be there. All are up for a bit of a joke.
“Victorious Secret baby, they don’t love us. They didn’t want us here! We’re here baby! Number three in the nation,” cheers Myles Martin of the Victorious Secret. “Get it right baby. We’re doing it. 2018, let’s go get it baby, let’s go!”
His teammates laugh, and members of Tigers B standing on the sidelines can’t help but smile. The friendly joisting and trash-talking continues, adding to the ambiance to this overall fun day of rugby.
The final match doesn’t disappoint. It’s a solid game from beginning to end. When the final whistle blows, the Tigers B’s reign victorious, repeating as the 2018 Canada Touch Rugby Champions. They defeat the One-Hitters 5 to 1.
“A lot of hard work goes into one very special day,” says Matt Wolfe. “I got to thank my teammates for all the hard work they put in.”
The Tigers B are joined by the other 11 teams in the middle of Field One at the Hangar. Standing in a circle, they listen as Steve Shortly, presents the Championship Trophy.
“I’m happy to congratulate team Tigers B as our Winter CTR Touch 2018 champions,” says Shortly. “It was a good repeat performance. You guys were quick, you’re fast. You’re in better shape than most of us.
“I’m not sure about the most handsome, but for today we will allow that,” Shorty says jokingly.
Shortly then calls up Matt Wolfe, captain of the Tigers B squad to present the trophy, as the rest of the teams clap.
Following the presentation, a championship photo is taken of the Tigers B. Then every other participant gathers together for one big photo. Smiles all around.
Rugby is, after all, one big happy family. People come from all over to play the sport they love. They are grateful for this Winter league where they can stay in shape and continually improve on their rugby skills.
They have three leagues under their umbrella for you to participate: The Hangar Sport and Event Centre located at Downsview Park in Toronto, Upper Canada College (U.C.C) also located in Toronto at 200 Lonsdale Road, and the Burlington Dome located at the Sherwood Forest Park.
For more information – and if you are interested in joining the Canada Touch Rugby league for the 2019 winter league, check out their website at http://www.canadatouchrugby.ca
Champions and Runners-Up Role Call
Shout out to the members of the 2018 runners up, The One-Hitters:
Owen Brombal, Katelyn Carey, Nate Boyenga, Eric Mayer, Dave Jones, Zack Morrison, Tyler Mirco, Terri Jones, Casey Bouk, Steve Piatek.
Members of the 2018 CTR Champs, The Tigers B are:
Matt Wolfe, George Gleeson, Zach Pancer, Ethan Wolfe, David Worsley, Justin Chang, Tim Richardson, Scott Col,e Ben Johnstone, Pat Ricardson, Brendon McGovern.
See you at next year’s Winter Canada Touch Rugby League!