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Concordia to defend conference title

by Archives October 21, 2008

The Concordia Stingers women’s rugby team is headed to the Quebec conference final for the second consecutive year.
The Stingers won 13-5 Sunday afternoon over the McGill Martlets. Concordia will play the conference final against the Laval Rouge et Or on Sunday. The Stingers scored 23 points against Laval two weeks ago a team that has only allowed 33 points all season.
Concordia had been defeated in a close game at the Kelly-Ann Drummond Cup against McGill earlier this season. Since then, they hadn’t faced their cross-town rivals until the semi-finals.
A cloudless Sunday afternoon at McGill’s MacDonald campus set the stage for the battle. McGill came out strong in the first half’s opening minutes as Elissa Alarie decked out Concordia’s back line to put the Martlets on the Stingers doorstep. Concordia put on an impressive try line stand, denying McGill the few extra yards they needed to score.
When Concordia survived the 10-minute McGill assault they looked unstoppable. Stinger forwards were outstanding in scrums. They forced turnovers by using their sheer strength to dominate McGill.
“Early on in the game we realized we had the strength to just plow them over,” said forward Claire Hortop. The Stingers used their strength the entire game to simply push McGill backwards. Vanessa Ng contributed by pressuring the Martlets offence and Sarah Nesbitt was always looking to push just a few extra yards.
The forwards continued their exceptional play when they pushed their way over the try line to put Concordia on the board 5-0. The try was awarded to eight man Vanessa Gillo but it seemed like all eight forwards broke through McGill’s defence.
The Stingers weren’t satisfied with a mere five-point lead. Thirty seconds after the first try, fullback Jenny Rosenbaum ran 50 yards to put five more on the board. Her impressive speed left the Martlets diving after her in vain.
“Anytime you can come back right from a kickoff and score right away it’s definitely deflating when it happens to you,” said head coach Graeme McGravie.
“You know as an athlete that it’s very demoralizing. I thought we had the game won there.” The Stingers were up 10-0 at halftime.
Normally this is the part when Concordia loses composure and their opponents take advantage. “We’re a team that comes out really strong and then we usually have some trouble starting the second half and that’s something we’ve been working on all season,” admits eight man Gillo. It was not the case against McGill.
If anything Concordia came out grittier and more determined. Hortop, who had been injured in the first half, opened the second half by extracting her revenge on McGill’s backline leaving a player down for almost five minutes.
McGill was seeing the beginning of their season’s end.
“It was always expected to be a big game against our big rivals, but we didn’t expect it to end like this,” said McGill flanker Amandra Mongeon. Rookie Jackie Tittley added a three-point kick to bring the score to 13-0. The Martlets lost almost every scrum and couldn’t seem to gain any ground against the resolute Stingers.
When McGill’s scrumhalf and captain Melany Waring was sin binned, Concordia saw their victory at hand.
“That’s the best feeling you could ever have. You know you’re breaking down their game and their scrum half is their leader. Once you take their leader out they’re screwed,” said Gillo.
“You could even see it whenever they’d have a pause in play, they’d be walking with their head down, so we knew we had them.”
McGill did manage to capitalize in a lapse in the Stingers defence. A group of Martlets punched their way into the end zone too little, too late to end the game 13-5.
“I’m ecstatic, just ecstatic to go to finals again this year,” said coach McGravie. “Our goal was to get to the final. For whatever reason we seem to be the underdogs even if we won it last year.”
When asked if she thought the Stingers would be in the same position as last season, second-year Hortop answered, “no” laughing. “Absolutely not, it was a weird beginning to the season trying to mesh as a team. Basically it wasn’t until our last two games that we have been playing to our potential as a team.”
The Stingers have one more obstacle to face before advancing to Nationals. They will play the undefeated Laval Rouge et Or in Quebec City on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the final.

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