When Concordia’s women’s rugby team won their Quebec final last week against Laval, they were happy, but not satisfied. The only way the undefeated squad was going to be satisfied was if they had a medal around their necks at Nationals.
The Stingers accomplished that goal last Sunday at Trent University, although it was not the colour they had hoped for.
The snow couldn’t stop Concordia, as they started the tournament with an impressive 32-3 win over the Queen’s University Golden Gaels. Stinger star Jackie Tittley led the scoring with 12 points coming from three converts and two penalty kicks. Erika Hamilton, Jessie Lapointe and rookie Cara Stuckey all put points on the board.
Although the backs were racking up the points, most of the play stayed with the forwards. Snow and messy conditions offer too many chances for dropped balls, so the Stingers were playing it safe.
The Stingers won the game easily against the battered Golden Gaels, who had lost to powerhouse University of Lethbridge Pronghorns the day before. The next day, the Stingers moved on the face Lethbridge, the reigning three-time consecutive champions and four-time podium finishers.
Going into Nationals, everyone knew that the Pronghorns were the team to beat. That’s exactly what the underdog Stingers did on Saturday in a 19-12 upset. What was especially surprising is that Quebec MVP Tittley was out of the game with an undisclosed illness.
Prop Solange De Blois stepped up to score the first try of the game off a five-metre maul, but the Pronghorns responded late in the half with their own try.
Lethbridge would take the lead early in the second, putting pressure on Concordia to play for their lives. On their patented play, the Stingers repeated the five-metre maul and this time, captain Claire Hortop put the ball down. Hamilton converted the try and Concordia drew closer to knocking off the champs. With no time left, the Stingers put the nails in the coffin when De Blois added her second try of the game. Hamilton’s convert finished off the scoring and the University of Lethbridge’s chance at a record four consecutive championship wins.
So the Stingers were off to the finals for the first time in the team’s history. They were assured a medal, the only question was whether it would be gold or silver.
Concordia’s opponent in the final was AUS champion St. Francis-Xavier University from Antigonish, N.S. The X-Women have appeared at Nationals every year since the tournament was established 13 years ago, but have only won one title. Concordia’s most recent appearance at Nationals was last year, where they placed fourth.
The game was hotly contested and was only decided in sudden-death overtime.
The X-Women opened the scoring, putting up a try and a conversion to make it 7-0. Starting hooker Sarah Scanlon pushed over the line to catch Concordia up, but the kick for added points sailed wide. Concordia came out of the half with all pistons firing and, like deja vu, Lisa Hoffman scored off a five-metre maul. The Stingers kept the pressure on and had several opportunities to widen their lead. Every time they seemed to bounce off the huge StFX pack and failed to touch the ball down. The patient X-Women wore the Stingers down, took advantage of Concordia’s weariness and inevitably scored when Asya Bartley tied it up at 12.
For almost the entirety of the 10-minute sudden-death overtime, the X-Women were at Concordia’s doorstep. The Stingers had to make try-saving tackle after try-saving tackle to keep StFX out of the zone. When it seemed like Concordia had worn the clock down, StFX’s Olivia DeMerchant barged through the forward pack to secure the championship and hand Concordia their first loss of the season.
Although the Stingers finished short, they accomplished what they set out to do. Concordia comes home with silver medals around their necks after a nail-biting ending to their near-perfect season.