A 19-12 loss delivered by the hands of league-leading Laval, on Friday night, ruined the chance of a perfect season for the women’s rugby team.
The rivalry between Concordia and Laval is almost palpable. According to captain Claire Hortop, the contention between the two teams is one of the fiercest in the league. “Ever since we beat them in the finals three years ago, they’re kind of like the new McGill,” she said.
Laval opened the scoring early. Six minutes into the first half, the Rouge et Or struck after Concordia handed them field position with a penalty.
The early try lit a fire under the Stingers as they ran roughshod over Laval. Vanessa Grillo was a dominating force in the rucks and Hortop’s long run proved that the Rouge et Or defence was not impenetrable. Kim Whitty took one for the team as she was clobbered by a Laval tackle when she scored in the corner. Jackie Tittley’s kick hit the crossbar and left Concordia trailing 7-5.
The Stingers struggled with their passing late in the first half. Passes between scrum-half Julie Vaillancourt, fly-half Erika Hamilton and inside centre Tittley, fell short and bounced off the turf.
The turning point of the half came in the dying minutes, with Laval trying to relieve pressure by getting out of their own try zone. Rookie Hughanna Gaw blocked a kick, which allowed the Stingers a scrum on the five yard line. Gaw finished what she had started and scored with the support of the entire pack. Tittley added the extra points and the Stingers were ahead by five at the half.
However, it was not the same Concordia squad that returned to the field for the second half. A bevy of missed passes, ineffective tackling, and penalties plagued Concordia. On defence, the backs were waiting for the Rouge et Or to run into them, instead of taking initiative and pressuring their passes.
The largest failure was Concordia’s set play, which went from dominating in the first half to what was essentially handing Laval the ball. It was only a matter of time before Laval scored and levelled the game to 12-all.
Minutes later, Laval pulled ahead as a result of a terrible defensive effort by the Stingers. The Rouge et Or managed to steal a line-out without even sending up a jumper. They sent the ball out to the wing where Mandie Aldridge lost a footrace, and Jennifer Rosenbaum missed a pivotal tackle. It was an easy jog between the uprights for Laval and an even easier kick to secure the lead 19-12.
With only five minutes left, Concordia began to play desperately. The entire pack participated in mauls and rucks and the Stingers began their slow progression down-field. Laval began to fall apart under the constant pressure and they committed five consecutive penalties on their own five yard line.
Concordia couldn’t seem to break the gritty Laval defence which shifted to repel at least seven try attempts. Grillo finally managed to make it into the try zone and it seemed like Concordia had managed to pull off the win but it was not to be. The referee and touch judge both decided that the ball was held up by Laval and not touched onto the field to score.
It was then that the final whistle sounded and, as Tittley described, the effort was “too little, too late.” Head coach Graeme McGravie echoed her sentiment, lamenting, “we should have scored before then so I’m not going to put the onus on the referee.”
This loss drops Concordia to 2-1 with a difficult week ahead. This Tuesday at 8 p.m. the ladies will face McGill at Loyola field in the Kelly-Ann Drummond Cup. This is an annual exhibition game played in honour of Kelly-Ann Drummond, a member of Concordia’s rugby team who was murdered by her boyfriend in 2004.
On Friday night the Stingers will be playing a league game against Ottawa at Loyola Field at 6:30 p.m.