It was the battle of the best at Loyola Field on Sunday, as number one McGill faced off against second seated Concordia in men’s rugby. The outcome reflected the standings as McGill won 41-13 and swept the Stingers in league play for the second straight year.
What wasn’t shown on the scoreboard was the Stingers’ vast improvement from their last meeting with their cross-town rivals. This game was the best cohesive effort that the team has displayed so far. All the elements were there, but the Stingers couldn’t manage to get it together and keep it together quite like McGill.
McGill didn’t waste any time putting the heat on. The slow starting Stingers were trampled by the Redmen’s speed and ability to wiggle their way out of tackles. Within fifteen minutes the Redman had already notched fourteen points.
“They’re far too strong for us to let them have tries that are not hard earned,” said head coach Clive Gibson about McGill’s initial onslaught.
The pressure continued throughout most of the first half but the Stingers managed to counterattack. Xavier Birot recovered a blocked kick and drew a penalty on one play to the enthusiastic approval of the fans. This play resulted in a spectacular mid-air tackle by James Acker while contending for a drop kick. The Stingers were gaining ground but couldn’t seem to finish. After having two try attempts held up, the Stingers finally managed to punch one through. Captain Ted McGregor flaunted his return from the injured list with his second try of the season. Birot added the extra points and the Stingers trailed by seven.
The Redmen didn’t take kindly to being scored on and punished Concordia for the seven points by adding five to their own lead thirty seconds later.
Concordia tried in vain to repay the favour. It was a forward’s game for Concordia, they kept the ball in their ranks and let the backs enjoy the sunshine. Repeated picks and trailers were stopped in their tracks by McGill’s textbook tackles. Just when it seemed the defence would break, the buzzer sounded to end the first half.
The first thing Concordia did after halftime was hand McGill points via a penalty kick. Birot offset the difference with a penalty kick of his own at the other end of the field to increase the Stingers’ score to ten.
Concordia began to fall apart defensively and all the Redmen had to do was capitalize on the holes in the line. The quality of tackling and intensity diminished considerably in the early second and McGill was always threatening to score. At one point, Jonathan Dextras-Romagnino covered three Redmen by himself with no help in sight.
The Stingers did generate some offence courtesy of McGill’s frustration over a penalty and losing a player to the sin-bin. The frustration was palpable and the two teams nearly erupted into a brawl after a whistle.
Back Paul Bouet stood out in the second half due to his determination to be first on the ball. Marc Roche literally pushed a McGill forward out of the try zone before he could touch the ball down. Forward Matthew Kerr was dominating force in the rucks and helped keep Concordia’s focus on the fundamentals.
The Stingers caught some lucky breaks in the second that allowed the score to stay within reach until the last ten minutes. The ball slip out of McGill’s Mike Davis’ hands while he was trying to touch it down to score. Birot promptly jumped on the ball and kicked it away to put Concordia into McGill territory. The ensuing play resulted in a penalty kick and rounded the Stingers scoring out at 13.
In the dying minutes, McGill would go on to score twice on solo runs. “We lost it in the last twenty minutes,” said McGregor. “They took advantage of our fatigue.”
Redman Kevin Buckley completed a hat trick on the last play of the game to boost the score to 41-13.
The Stingers travel to Lennoxville to face Bishops University for their final regular season game on Friday at 7 p.m.