Four Oakville athletes help Queen’s Gaels capture U Sports women’s rugby crown

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Published November 15, 2021 at 6:12 pm

Oakville native Jaden Walker advances the ball for the Queen's Gaels at the U Sports women's rugby championship in Kingston, Ont., last week. Walker had the try that put Queen's ahead for good in the gold-medal game. (Robin Kasem, Queen's Athletics photo)

Oakville rugby players Sarah Penman, Bridget Peros, Jaden Walker and Thea White have gone national with their winning ways.

The four alumnae of Oakville Trafalgar High School, who followed coach Dan Valley down the 401 to Kingston to play university women’s rugby, contributed to the Queen’s Gaels winning the U Sports national championship last weekend. Walker scored the try that put the Gaels ahead for good in the gold-medal game on Sunday, when Queen’s downed the Ottawa Gee-Gees 26-18 in rainy conditions to capture the Molinex Trophy for the first time.

Peros, a fourth-year scrum half, was also named a second-team all-Canadian last week. White, a fifth-year centre, got to go out on top just like she did at Trafalgar, which won the Ontario high school title in her Grade 12 season.

Oakville native Bridget Peros was named a U Sports second-team all-Canadian in women’s rugby last week, prior to contributing to the Queen’s Gaels winning the national title. (Robin Kasem, Queen’s Athletics)

In an article on gogaelsgo.com, penned prior to the nationals, Penman credited the culture created by Valley, who’s an under-18 coach with Rugby Canada, for creating the conditions for his players to thrive.

“I think likeminded people were driven to join the team because they knew it would be a huge commitment and they were competitive people,” said Penman, a second-row player.

“The other thing that Dan does really well is we are all very competitive people, but he does a great job of creating an environment where it’s not competing individually, it’s competing individually to make that person beside you better. I think there was always an understanding on our team that you have a role to play to make your teammates better and while you’re doing that, you’re going to be getting noticed for the work you’re putting in.”

There have been high expectations for Queen’s in rugby circles for several years, since their talented core includes Sophie de Goede, a national team prospect who played pro in England with the North London-based Saracens earlier this year. The Gaels were one win short of a national title in 2019, falling to the Laval Rouge et Or in the 2019 gold-medal game before COVID-19 cancalled university athletics in ’20.

Although they were at home, Queen’s was the No. 5 seed in the eight-team, single-elimination national championship after losing to the Guelph Gryphons in the Ontario University Athletics final. They were tied in the second half of all three games, and went to overtime in a 28-18 semifinal win against Laval last Friday.

Peros also plunged in for the winning try in Queen’s 33-26 quarterfinal win against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds on Nov. 10. Walker, a third-year fullback, also had a try in that contest.

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