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Women?s rugby squad crowned Quebec champions

by admin November 3, 2009

QUEBEC CITY- It was a moment a long time in the making.
As women’s rugby captain Claire Hortop hoisted the gleaming division cup over her head and her team surrounded her in a flood of cheers, tears, and hugs it became evident that this was the climax of the Stingers’ Cinderella story.
The Stingers had pulled off the ultimate upset and had beaten archrival Laval 13-10 in the final double-overtime thriller.
The journey began in June, when the team sat down to outline their goals for the season. At the top of the list was beat Laval and go to nationals. Last year, the Stingers lost in the finals against Laval due to a technicality. During this year’s regular season, Concordia struggled against the Rouge et Or in a 19-12 loss that left them in second place. It was as underdogs that the Stingers entered the final game, but they left it as champions.
“There’s nothing more you could ask for than beating your arch-rival in the biggest, most important game of my rugby life,” said graduating student Jennifer Rosenbaum. After four seasons, she will permanently hang up her Stingers uniform. “I couldn’t be happier to be a member of the team like the Stingers. I’m so happy that it ended the way that it did,” she beamed while toying with the gold medal around her neck.
The game ended in a last minute nail biter. After 80 minutes of regular time resulting in a tie, the match proceeded to overtime. One 10-minute overtime solved nothing, so the game was extended into another ten-minute overtime. In the dying minutes of the second overtime, Concordia had their chance to win.
A Laval penalty allowed Jackie Tittley to kick for three points and the win. The tension and prayers were palpable when the referee indicated a penalty kick. As a hush blanketed the crowd and her team waiting on tenterhooks behind her, Tittley calmly put the ball between the uprights to pull Concordia ahead by three.
“I knew I had it, simple as that,” she said confidently, “I’ve been really consistent this year and it was in my range. No hesitation.”
Getting to that point in the game was another story. The Stingers dominated early, allowing them to open up a convincing lead. Tittley, this week’s Concordia Athlete of the Week, initiated the scoring with a three-point penalty kick. Quebec women’s rugby rookie of the year Hughanna Gaw added a try when the Stingers pack pushed a scrum from the ten-yard line into the try zone.
The Rouge et Or were down, but definitely not out.
The last 20 minutes of regular time could best be described as an onslaught at Concordia’s try line.
“The game was really won in defence,” said captain Hortop sweeping her hand over the Concordia try zone, “there was a period when we were on the line here and I can’t believe we kept them out. It’s really hard to defend the line when they’re coming at you constantly. All I was thinking was “holy shit, holy shit, holy shit.'”
The Stingers proved their defensive grit in all ends of the game. Laura Belvedere was up quick, forcing the backs to hurry their offence. Lisa Hoffman saved a try by swinging a Rouge et Or player out of the end zone before she could touch the ball down. Eight-man Gaw tackled so hard that Laval actually lost a few yards every time they were hit. At some points, the Stingers were triple-teaming players to ensure the ball stayed out of the red turf.
Unfortunately, the efforts were in vain as the Rouge et Or managed to squeeze into a hole in the corner to score. Laval was still down 10-5 with five minutes to play.
In classic dramatic fashion, it came down to the last play. Concordia had their backs against the wall, trying to keep Laval out of the try zone.
Tittley described the last few minutes as a now-or-never experience.
“I was thinking this is it, this is potentially our last game,” she recalled, “you can’t think about that next play, you have to live in that moment.”
The Stingers’ chronic penalty problem came back to haunt them in the end. Laval scored when Concordia took an extremely ill-timed penalty.
“I needed a defibrillator,” said head coach Graeme McGravie, “it was heart-attack rugby.”
The final whistle was vastly overshadowed by the victory screams of the players as they rushed to congratulate each other. The sea of burgundy and gold at the centre of the field was filled with tear-streaked faces of joy and radiant smiles as no one seemed to notice or care about the cold rain coming down. On the other end of the pitch, it was the picture of defeat the Rouge et Or players sank to the turf in disbelief and many erupted into tears.
“The satisfaction is hard to put into words,” said Hortop as she held the cup protectively in shaking hands.
“It’s unreal, I don’t think I’ll fully comprehend until tomorrow,” Tittley gushed.
The Stingers can cross goal number one off their to-do list this season. They will play at Nationals this weekend in Vancouver, B.C. They are facing off against the University of Western Ontario Mustangs and defending national champs University of Lethbridge Pronghorns.