The setting was perfect for an upset. Crosstown rivals McGill and Concordia met Sunday night in the men’s rugby finals at Molson Stadium. The teams had traded victories this season, with last-year’s champions, the McGill Redmen, taking a 18-6 early season win and the Stingers winning 17-10 only two weeks ago. But it wasn’t to be for Concordia, as McGill took the banner home for the fifth consecutive year in a 22-10 win.
The game began well for both teams as they tried to exploit the other’s mistakes. Concordia was successful in finding holes in McGill’s defence, but failed when it came to taking penalties. This allowed the Redmen the chance for a penalty kick early, which Gideon Balloch easily put through the uprights to make it 3-0.
Concordia’s Adriano D’Angelo responded with his own kick to tie it up after a vicious hit on forward Jimmy Bang.
McGill came back hard from the penalty by flaunting their quick hands and even quicker feet. Concordia countered by making strong tackles but slipped up when McGill’s Balloch found a hole along the sidelines and scored the first try of the game. He then converted his own kick to widen the lead to 10-3.
Concordia’s frustration started to show when Stinger centre Auguste Stoker was ejected from the game after two yellow cards, the latter for a high tackle. This meant that Concordia had to play one man short, a situation that would eventually lead to their demise. “Playing with 14 for half a game didn’t help,” said head coach Clive Gibson, “it’s a lot of stress on the boys to be a man short.”
Veteran back Jonathan Dextras-Romagnino would also leave the game with an injury.
McGill took advantage of the weakened Concordia squad by trying to widen their lead by any means. A 32-yard penalty kick fell short for the Redmen, but they made up for it with a try by Balloch yet again, only seconds before halftime.
To the Stingers’ credit, their grit and determination almost made up for having only 14 players on the field. Paul Bouet made it his personal mission to punish any McGill player who caught the ball and David Biddle stepped up his already impressive defence by blocking a key kick.
“Our one-on-one tackling was good but our line defence was not as solid as it has been or needed to be,” said Gibson.
Before long, Concordia had scraped, pushed and clawed their way up field and were within striking distance. The Stingers passed up the opportunity to kick for points on a penalty but were rewarded when the entire forward pack drove the ball over the line to score. D’Angelo converted the try and the Stingers needed only a try and conversion to tie.
Concordia fought valiantly, but in vain. Bang saved a try by tackling a Redman off the field and captain Curtis McKinney rallied the forward pack. The effort of trying to compensate for a missing player was too much for the Stingers as McGill focused their efforts on using their extra man on the wing. “We were failing on defence in a couple of places, they were putting on a lot of pressure, we were being badly outnumbered on the blindside, we just weren’t reacting to it,” said Gibson. They scored in the corner with only minutes to play, and put the Stingers’ hopes just out of reach.
The large Concordia contingent of the crowed cheered their team until the bitter end, but it was the Redmen who were awarded the banner. Four Concordia players were named to the all-star team; Biddle, Dextras-Romagnino, Bouet and Bang.