Coming off an 0-7 season last year, this year’s men’s rugby team didn’t have the pressure of high expectations. It was a fresh start from the previous season, with only a handful of returning players and about 20 rookies.
“This year we had a whole new team, it was a chance for us to move on past last year and do something new,” said head coach Clive Gibson.
Led by rookie captain Ted McGregor, the team opened their season with a last-minute thrilling win again Bishop’s University. The victory was secured by Sean McDonaugh-Fraser, who dove into the paint for the tying points and Adriano D’Angelo who added the kick to pull ahead.
The Stingers’ second game was won in the same last-minute fashion, but at a high cost. Five Concordia players were seriously injured, two were taken away by ambulance by the time Jonathan Dextras-Romagnino put the final points on the board.
“Those injuries were 100 per cent our fault,” said Gibson. “We weren’t ready physically and were making bad choices that landed us in the hospital.”
Concordia all-star Jody Arsenault recalled watching his teammates repeatedly go down, saying that the sideline “looked more like a MASH tent than a playing field.”
The victory at Sherbrooke came at too high a cost, as the injury plagued Stingers couldn’t recover in time for the playoffs.
Despite missing four starters, the Stingers rallied to face the Vert et Or again the following week. Jeremy Chung Lim was taken out for the season by a vicious tackle that resulted in a serious head injury and the Stingers’ third ambulance trip in two weeks. However, the team showed its depth by hanging onto the 29-10 win to go undefeated in their first three games.
As much as some things change, others stay the same. The Stingers had beaten last year’s record by a mile, but had yet to face their toughest test: the four-time league champion McGill Redmen. If the Stingers were hoping for a shot at being on top and completely turning around their record, they had to beat McGill.
Unfortunately, McGill was number one for a reason and easily ran roughshod over the Stingers in 57-10 and 41-13 victories. McGill also claimed another casualty; Concordia all-star David Biddle was taken out for the remainder of the season with an eye injury.
“It was really frustrating to be held back by doctor’s orders,” said Biddle, “I could physically play but I had to do what the doctors and the team told me.”
With playoffs fast approaching the team needed to get healthy.
“We lost our core group of guys to injury,” said Gibson, “we didn’t have enough depth to make it work in the end.”
The semi-final was set against at Bishop’s. Playing in Lennoxville is a unique experience because of the rowdy school spirit and relentless jeering. The Stingers struggled throughout the first leaving, the Gaiters with an 8-0 lead at halftime. Mike Consolante pounced on a blocked kick that rolled into the end zone to put the Stingers on the board. Coupled with a penalty try and kicks from all-star Xavier Birot, the Stingers were down by three with minutes left to play. Concordia’s squad threw everything they had at the Gaiters, but came up empty handed as the Bishop’s defence held.
All is not lost as there are very few players graduating this year.
“Luckily we have a strong core coming back next year,” said McGregor.
If the progress made this year is any indication, the Stingers men’s rugby team is back as a serious contender.