The rivalry was palpable at Loyola field on Friday night. The Concordia women’s rugby team was facing off against Laval Rouge et Or, the team they had defeated in last year’s finals to advance to nationals. History repeated itself as the Stingers won their league game 10-9 to remain undefeated.
From opening kickoff to the last whistle the game was highly charged. “The rivalry is getting worse,” remarked co-captain Claire Hortop. “It’s almost dangerous.” Players on both sides were scratching, raking, kneeing and punching their way through the game as reflected by the huge number of penalties. Concordia took a total of 20 penalties and Laval had 15.
Early in the first Laval opened the scoring on – what else – a penalty. Their kick put them ahead 3-0. Jackie Tittley would tie it up for Concordia minutes later in the exact same situation.
It was obvious that both teams were out to prove their dominance by the way they were tackling. Lea Leahy delivered a spin-o-rama hit on a Rouge et Or back, Hughanna Gaw punished the flankers who tried to take her down off scrums and Sara Scanlon tackled any Laval player who even thought of touching the ball.
Fullback Jenna Giuliani showed her speed by coming into the backline at key moments to gain some valuable yardage. Unfortunately for the Stingers, it seemed like they were taking one step forward, two steps back, as much of the ground they gained was negated by penalties. This led to Laval regaining their lead with a penalty kick to make it 6-3.
Giuliani almost pulled the Stingers ahead on a solo run early in the second half but at the last second, Laval’s fullback got a hand on her jersey and hauled her down. Instead of Concordia getting more points on the board, Laval’s kicker countered with a 33-yard penalty kick to widen the lead to 9-3.
It was clear that Concordia was driven by desperation and intensity in the last 10 minutes. They kept constant pressure on the Rouge et Or and tried to force the ball over the line at least five times. Every time Laval managed to hang on by holding the ball up in the try zone. “If you give us enough opportunities, we will make it happen,” said head coach Graeme McGravie.
Lisa Hoffman made it happen when she punched the ball over the line and down onto the field in the corner. Concordia scored, but was still behind. It was down to Tittley to make the kick to put the Stingers ahead by one. On a bad angle from 22 yards out, she hit the mark and Concordia was up 10-9.
Laval put the pressure on late in vain. Concordia’s defence was too driven to let the lead slip away and with some amazing tackles by Giuliani the Stingers held on to win.
“It’s such an ego boost,” said a smiling Tittley. “It is reassurance that we are a good team and we can compete with the best.”
The Stingers will try to continue their undefeated streak Sept. 24 against Bishop’s at 8 p.m.