The Hunter’s Ale House Mudmen will have a chance to defend their Rugby Nova Scotia division 2 title on home field next Saturday.
The Mudmen defeated a hard-hitting Enfield R.F.C. squad 30-5 today in semifinal play at Co-op Field to advance to the championship game. They will play the Halifax Tars on Saturday, Sept. 21, at 1 p.m. for the Shannon Cup. The Tars defeated the Eastern Shore 72-7 in the other semifinal.
Mark Lloyd converted a couple early penalty kicks to stake the Mudmen to a 6-0 lead Saturday. With Enfield pressing for a score deep in the Mudmen zone, Lloyd kicked the home side out of trouble and, a few plays later, Marcus Dunphy broke a couple of tackles on a roughly 50-yard run for the try.
“That guy, when he runs in the open field, is just a terror,” said Mike Lloyd, who coaches the Mudmen alongside Leigh Reid, Kyle Robertson and Forrest Spencer.
“It’s pretty deflating to a team when an individual can break so many tackles and run like that,” added Mudmen veteran Phil Gallant.
Mark Lloyd kicked the convert to make it 13-0. Five minutes later, Ben Whalen punched the ball in for a try to give the host squad an 18-0 lead.
Just before halftime, fullback Brandon Thomas made an open-field tackle when he was one-on-one with an Enfield player with nothing but green grass behind him.
Gallant said Thomas filled in at scrum half for most of the season with Donnie Sonier out with a broken hand. Thomas is a first-year player the Mudmen have great confidence in whatever position he is playing.
“A lot of guys have a lot of weight on him . . . and he’s just textbook, putting them to the ground and giving us enough time to get over there,” Gallant said.
“I told him to put rocks in his shorts today to hold him down because I thought the wind was going to blow him away,” Mike Lloyd joked. “But he’d take anybody on. He keeps himself so fit. There isn’t any fat on him whatsoever and there’s certainly no fat on his heart because he will challenge anyone.”
Fifteen minutes into the second half, Gallant scored a try off a scrum and Grant MacAdam added the convert to increase the lead to 25.
“That try of Phil’s was just a total try of determination,” Lloyd said.
Gallant said he and Sonier saw the Enfield flankers and eightman pinching when Gallant would pop the ball to Sonier.
“We were hoping just a fake pop to him and they would pinch. My goal was just to get the eightman and flanker to turn their hips towards him and then I’d cut inside,” Gallant said. “The rest of the guys did like 99 per cent of the work and I just had to touch the ball over the line.”
Enfield got on the board late, but the win had been sealed.
“We’re actually a little discouraged they scored there at the end because we wanted to keep the zeros on the board,” said Gallant, noting the emphasis the team places on defence.
The Mudmen answered on the last play of the game on a try by Ben Fradsham, who made a couple of key plays during the contest using his high rugby IQ to make smart decisions.
Mike Lloyd said some veterans, including Dunphy, Justin Ellis and Shaun Younker, stepped up and played key roles in the victory.
“Today, one of the reasons we did well was a couple of the old boys jumped in for us,” Lloyd said. “They say props mature later than any of the other players on the team and that’s where we put them.”
The Mudmen’s division 1 squad was off this weekend. They will play Valley at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21.