Rugby men begin season on right track

How often do we see this? The two juggernauts who dueled it out for last year’s championship are this season’s kick-off game. And there was certainly little love-lost last Sunday as Concordia dealt the Bishop’s Gaiters their third consecutive defeat over two seasons by a 34-13 margin.
Emotions were high as the two teams took to the field at Concordia Stadium, with Bishop’s looking for some redemption after 17-7 and 19-16 losses to underdog Concordia in last year’s season closer and championship games.
“It was a grudge match for sure,” said Concordia captain Marty Boutin.
However these weren’t the same teams that faced off last November for the championship. During the off-season Concordia lost some size up front, while Bishop’s grew younger. Another draw-back for Concordia is that for the first month of the season, most players are playing two games a weekend, as the city-league season comes to a close.
Both sides were quick to vent some frustration with a five-man fist-a-cuffs scuffle in mid-field early in the game that left a man from both sides in the dog-house for a few minutes. But not before Concordia took the lead with a quick try on the outside right, capitalizing on a bouncing kicked ball and sleepy Bishop’s defense.
With persistent running, good passing, and an eyes for the openings. Concordia would run through again a few minutes later and make the conversion to take a comfortable 12-0 for most of the half. For the rest of the half it was a battle of endurance as to which team could last the longest out in the unseasonal sun. Concordia’s defence was surprisingly dominating, shutting-down most any Bishop’s thrust into their lines. This was thanks in part to new Stingers’ forward Mark McKnight, who played a much more physical game than was seen last year, winning him accolades from the stands and a bad reputation with Bishop’s ball-carriers.
Still, the Gaiters in general were bigger and won most of the rucks and scrambles for the ball. After being thwarted before reaching Concordia’s endzone yet again, Bishop’s would use a penalty call against Concordia to kick through a three-point conversion, making it 12-3 at the half.
Bishop’s came out strong in the second half, taking Concordia a little by surprise. The Stingers’ back line was able to snatch a try away from charging runners, but the Gaiters’ power eventually pushed the ball through the home squad’s “d” for a score.
Soon after, good running up the side from the home team’s Adam Goldman and Alfred David moved the ball deep in into the visitors’ end, where Matt Garston would make a 15-yard drop-kick through the uprights for three more points.
Then came the heart of the half, ten grueling minutes of Bishop’s being within yards of another try.
It took Bishop’s four scrum attempts before they successfully overcame Concordia and pushed through a try, coming within two points of the lead.
But that must have been their last gasp, because Concordia made three quick and relatively easy tries to put a nail in Bishop’s coffin, thanks in big part to quick legs from Goldman, and David and Harry Georgiopolus. The last try was thrust through by new-comer Jon Chiniborch, a 20 year-old freshman who’s played for both Quebec’s provincial and under-21 provincial teams. “There are a lot of skilled players on this team,” said Chiniborch. “It’s nice to play with them instead of against them for a change… All we need is getting to know each other as a team… a few more practices.”
Head coach Gerry Clayton was pleasantly surprised by his team’s performance, this being their first season opening victory since 1997 he says.
“Early on in the season we usually struggle coming out of the gate. …Surprised is the word on defence, the guys were really able to make their tackles. Bishop’s had a lot on their hands,” Clayton said.
Not bad for a team that only practiced twice before the game.
Concordia has had two days of rest and only one more practice going into this afternoon’s game at McGill on the reservoir. This will be McGill’s 1st season opener and they’re known for their size; a baptism by fire for this year’s Stingers.
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