CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — Well, the Hunter’s Corner Mudmen RFC has made it this far so there’s not much choice now but to keep chugging along.
It’s a matter of unfinished business for the Phil Gallant of the Mudmen, which won the Rugby Nova Scotia A and B division senior men’s titles earlier this month.
“This is our most historic and successful year to date. Nothing can take that from us, but we are not finished at all,” Gallant said. “We had a goal to win two Maritime championships and that’s the focus. We are not downplaying the season, but we are determined to finish what we started.”
Those championship games go Saturday at UPEI. The B squad hosts the New Brunswick champ, the Moncton Black Tide, for the Wheaton Cup at noon, while the A team faces N.B. winner, the Fredericton Loyalists, at 4 p.m. in a rematch of the Caledonia Cup tussle last season won 22-20 by Fredericton.
The Mudmen A’s are a bit beat up (Marcus Dunphy is doubtful with a broken thumb) but more or less intact and Gallant said he’s confident the team’s deep roster can plug any holes. It’s searching for P.E.I.’s first senior men’s Maritime title since 1955.
The B side faces a team it has never played before in the Black Tide, though Gallant downplays the unfamiliarity.
“In division two we are not concerned about preparing for Moncton and what they bring. In the past, we got wrapped up in what teams did or who to watch for. One of the keys to our success is to focus on our game and what we are in control of. We bring our game and feel it can rival anyone,” Gallant said.
The Loyalists-Mudmen matchup is a budding rivalry considering Fredericton has downed the Island squad in all three meetings since last season. One regular season win in 2017, then the Caledonia Cup triumph and followed by Fredericton’s 41-35 victory this year on neutral ground in Truro, N.S.
It’s not quite at the Mudmen-Halifax Tars level of head-butting yet, but things are simmering. The Tars downed P.E.I. in championship and playoff games over several seasons before the Mudmen broke through last year en route to a berth in the Maritime title game.
Gallant sees contrasts in the rivals, but won’t mind re-routing some of that Tars dislike into the Loyalists fight.
“The Mudmen versus Loyalists rivalry is a bit different then the Tars. To be honest we play the Tars with respect, but hatred for their dominance,” said Gallant, a long-time Mudmen player and organizer. “With the Loyalists we see more similarities in our clubs. In the way we play and how we carry ourselves off the field also. We have a strong respect for each other and that always makes for a strong match. We need to find some of that hate (Saturday) to get an edge.”
Should the Mudmen A side win, it qualifies to play in the Atlantic championship next summer. If it wins the Atlantics, then it could play in next summer’s national championship.