After hanging tough in the first half, the talent of McGill was just too much for the Concordia Stingers to handle.
“I’ve never been prouder to wear maroon and gold in my life,” said Stingers captain Jonathan Dextras-Romagnino, whose sentiment resonated throughout the entire Stingers roster.
The rematch of last year’s RSEQ finals was held at McGill. It was the third meeting between the two clubs this season, and it ended like the previous two: with a McGill victory.
It had been almost a year since the Stingers and Redmen faced off in the finals and since then the road has been tough for the Stingers. The team only won a sole regular season game before last week’s win over Bishop’s in the semi-finals.
The Stingers just couldn’t repeat last week’s performance, though, in a game where they needed to be perfect. “Unfortunately we played our best game last week,” said head coach Clive Gibson, who was impressed with the effort nonetheless. “The guys played with a lot of heart and a lot of determination [against McGill].”
Each side played the first half solidly. The majority of ball possession favoured Concordia for the better part of the first 20 minutes. Still, neither team could score and the teams went into half deadlocked at zero.
Three minutes into the second half, McGill got on the board with an unconverted try, after some sloppy Stingers play. Concordia mishandled a ball kicked into its try zone. McGill charged the play and came away with five points.
Concordia was called for a penalty immediately after and was forced to face the talented McGill team shorthanded.
Concordia held the fort the best it could, but eventually the walls gave in.
McGill scored first on a kick then added two tries, taking a commanding 23-point lead with just 15 minutes left in the game.
“Coming into today we had the confidence,” said Stingers flanker Gavin Drohan. “We showed it in the first 20 minutes, but I don’t think we played the full 80.”
The Stingers’ coaching staff believe it came down to an inability to execute what the team had practiced.
“Our game plan was to hit them hard behind their gain line before they got started,” said assistant coach Jamal Benouahi. “We did that pretty much the whole first half, but our set piece was not where it needed to be.”
The bright spot for Concordia came when winger Adriano D’Angelo scored the team’s lone try of the day, after the Stingers had sustained three minutes of pressure, before breaking through the McGill defence.
McGill would score one last try just moments before the final whistle to seal the victory.
After the game, D’Angelo emphasized the importance of games like this for the club’s future. “The more times we get to the finals and pressure situations the better we’ll be at sorting it out and executing under pressure,” he said. “McGill has played in six finals, we’ve played in two.”
For the second consecutive year the Stingers fall just short of the championship, but certainly gain a lot of intangibles from games like this one. Like D’Angelo, prop Jimmy Bang was also looking to the future. “We have to use this day, use this loss, as something to build on for next year,” he said.