Vikes dethrone Thunderbirds in CUMRC gold medal game

The Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship (CUMRC) gold medal game didn’t disappoint, as we had to wait until the very last play to declare a winner. The University of Victoria Vikes finally won the battle 21-20.

The University of British Columbia Thunderbirds entered the contest as two-time CUMRC defending champions, and the first-ranked team of the tournament. The Vikes and Thunderbirds knew each other well, as the teams battle often in British Columbia.

The game started well for the Thunderbirds, as they scored two tries and 12 points in the first 15 minutes. However, the Vikes answered with 14 points in four minutes at the end of the first half to take the lead at halftime.

Thunderbirds head coach Curry Hitchborn said at halftime, he told his players they needed to settle down.

“They needed to relax,” Hitchborn said. “I told them the Vikes were there to play, and were going to test us. [They had] to stick to what they knew, keep it simple and not make it hard on ourselves. We did the complete opposite at times.”

The second half offered tight plays from start to finish. After the Thunderbirds scored three points on a penalty kick, teams exchanged tries.

At 21-20 Vikes in additional time, the Thunderbirds had the game’s destiny in their hands. They scored a try in additional time and had to convert for two points. A successful kick meant a win, and missed one meant a Vikes victory.

Vikes head coach Doug Tate said it’s good his team didn’t panic when they were down by 12 points.

“I think we closed the space, Tate said. “They are big runners, so if you get them off their feet, [it helps]. When we had chances to score, we did it. We didn’t give them many chances, as we were very aggressive defensively. We got a few bounces our way today, as they were close [to tying] the game.”

Tate said that being champions feels good for the Vikes. He said that victory feels more special than usual because of the history between the teams.

“I think we didn’t beat them in five years. Some of these guys have been with the Vikes for four or five years, and had never won against the Thunderbirds. For them, to beat that team in the CUMRC final is pretty special.”

On his side, Hitchborn gave a lot of credit to the Vikes. He said they came to play, and offered a massive effort.

“That was the best I’ve ever seen them play in years,” Hitchborn said. “They were everything a championship team needed to be. We play each other so often. It’s really great to see guys on both sides rise to the occasion like they did. It was a brilliant game for them.”


Stingers men’s rugby team loses to the Gaels in CUMRC bronze medal game

The Concordia Stingers men’s rugby team lost its Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship (CUMRC) bronze medal game 31-22 against the Queen’s University Gaels on Sunday morning, which concluded the team’s 2019-20 season.

The Stingers never managed to be in control of the game, as the Gaels took an early lead in the first half and never looked back.

Stingers head coach Craig Beemer said he wishes his players left the field with a better result after the effort they put and the season they had.

“I’m definitely not a participation guy,” Beemer said. “Our goal was the medal, so we didn’t meet our goal. I think you saw on Friday night, as well as in today’s second half, we have earned the right to have a medal, but it just didn’t happen for us today.”

Despite being a unique and great experience for the teams, the CUMRC still has challenges. Beemer said it was tough to go from one game a week, like the team is used to during its regular Réseau du Sport Étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) season, to three games in five days.

That’s where you see the blood, sweat and tears,” Beemer said. “These guys put in so many hours as student-athletes. When the coaching staff and I ask them to do things, I think that’s the toughest part [since they already put in so much time and always give their best effort].”

The Stingers gained some momentum late in the second half, scoring two consecutive tries for the first time of the game. Unfortunately for them, time ran out shortly thereafter. Beemer said having good starts is essential in a tournament like this one, and gave credit to the Gaels for their performance.

“Hats off to the Gaels,” said Beemer. “They played really well, and scored tries when they needed to. Our defence put theirs under a lot of pressure, but they responded really well. They were the better team today.”

Hooker Michael Laplaine-Pereira, who scored the Stingers’s consecutive tries in the second half and was named the Stingers most valuable player of the game, said despite the loss, the team is still happy with their season.

“We developed strong connections between the boys,” Laplaine-Pereira said. “It’s a life experience. We knew it would end at some point this week, and had to give everything we had today. We put everything we did this whole season on the line.”

Laplaine-Pereira said in events like that, where teams face injuries and challenges, the most important thing is to remain in good spirits.

“We’re not just leaving with a loss today,” Laplaine-Pereira said. “We’re leaving with a family, and connections that will stay for a long time.”

The Stingers officially conclude the CUMRC in fourth place, the same position they finished last year when they lost to the University of Victoria Vikes in the bronze medal game.


Feature photo by Laurence B.D.


Stingers men’s rugby team defeated by Thunderbirds, will play for bronze

The Concordia Stingers men’s rugby team gave the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds a hard battle in Friday’s semi-final game, but ultimately lost 22-18.

Despite the loss, the Stingers left Concordia Stadium with pride. They brought their best on the field, and forced the Thunderbirds to do the same. Head coach Craig Beemer said he’s really happy with the effort and performance his team offered. He explained that the Stingers couldn’t have done much more.

“I told someone, which was a little bit cliché, but David [versus Goliath] doesn’t always win,” Beemer said. “I like the fact we just competed the entire game. I don’t really think about X’s and O’s right now. It feels like maybe we should have won, but it doesn’t work that way.”

The Thunderbirds scored the first 12 points of the game which were the only points scored in the first half. However, that was the biggest lead the game saw, as the Stingers pushed back in the second half and even took a 13-12 lead at one point. Beemer said his team was really motivated at halftime.

“We were looking at that game thinking we could win,” Beemer said. “There’s no question in the heart my team has. We didn’t back down, and in a lot of ways we took it to them in the second half. It was just a great team effort of heart and determination at 100 per cent.”

In the last minutes of the second half, the Thunderbirds added three points on a penalty kick. The Stingers would afterwards score a try in additional time, but it was too late.

The Stingers battle for bronze against the Queen’s University Gaels in their final game of the year on Sunday. The game starts at 10:30 a.m. at Concordia Stadium.


Feature photo by Alec Brideau


Stingers men’s rugby team starts CUMRC with a win

All teams were in action Wednesday for the first day of the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship (CUMRC). The Concordia Stingers concluded the day with a 10-7 victory over the University of Guelph Gryphons.

With eight teams in the tournament, the first-ranked team played the eighth-ranked team, the second-ranked team played the seventh, and so on.

The Stingers and Gryphons, fourth and fifth respectively, knew each other well, as they met last year for the previous edition of the CUMRC. The Stingers won that game 19-5.

Both teams had good scoring opportunities, however the Stingers’s defence played an almost perfect game, and helped the team win regardless of scoring just a single try and penalty kick. The try was scored by veteran Stephen Martinez in the first half.

Head coach Craig Beemer thought the Stingers were dominant in many aspects, but said the defence was really good.

“When [the offence] doesn’t score the points you need, and the game gets tight, you can get a crazy finish like that,” Beemer said. “Hats off to Guelph, they battled for the full 60 minutes, and really put us under pressure at the end.”

The decision to opt for a three-point penalty kick with 15 minutes left in the second half came from the game being a one score contest. Beemer said the opportunity was there, as the Stingers were aligned right between the posts in Gryphons’s territory.

“You want to automatically make it [a difference] of two scores,” Beemer said. “That came back right. In the second half, if you can advance it by another score or even more, then you take it.”

Stingers centre Aidan McMullan, who scored that penalty kick, said the experience of playing the CUMRC at home is awesome.

“We had the game at 6 p.m., so everyone could come after work,” said McMullan. “It’s awesome to have family and friends coming out, cheering you on, and supporting you through this whole season. Now, it’s finally this tournament, and we’re just going to keep on going.”

Stephen Martinez poses with Concordia’s athletics director, D’Arcy Ryan, after being named player of the game for the Stingers.

The Stingers will now play the two-time CUMRC defending champions University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in the semi-final on Friday. It’s the third time in as many years the two teams meet at the championship. Beemer said he likes his team’s chances.

“I like our players’ attitude right now,” Beemer said. “I think they believe in themselves. I like our attack. If you want to win gold, you have to beat the best team.”

The game starts at 2:30 p.m. at Concordia Stadium. The winner will play for gold at 1 p.m. on Sunday.


Photos by Cecilia Piga


“I just want to play rugby and do my thing”

“Stan’s a thinker: he’s not overly loud, he’s quiet,” said men’s rugby head coach Craig Beemer about what he’s observed of fullback Stanislas Blazkowski his first year as a Stinger. “Obviously, he’s a really talented rugby player. He’s still young so even though he’s already got all these accolades, you can see that he still wants to learn and continue to improve.”

The 21-year-old started playing rugby for the Montreal Rugby Club when he was 11. Before that, Blazkowski played a variety of other sports: hockey, judo, boxing, and soccer among them.

After spending the first few years of his life in Melum, France, Blazkowski’s parents, who had visited Montreal when they were younger and always wanted to live here, finally made the move when Blazkowski was five years old.

“When I [became] a teenager, I didn’t know what culture I should refer to the most, between the French one and the Canadian one, especially while I lived in Montreal and all my family was in France,” said Blazkowski about how it felt living in both countries at various points in his life. “It was kind of tricky, but now I feel Canadian and French at the same time.”

In 2016, Blazkowski moved back to France and played for the Racing Club de Narbonne Méditerannée U22 team. It was a competitive environment and, even though Blazkowski enjoyed it, it unfortunately didn’t work out. This is in part – Blazkowski explained that it was a complicated situation – because the age group he was playing in was lowered by one year, and, despite still having one year of eligibility left, no one recruited him, opting instead for younger players.

Last summer, Blazkowski decided to come back to Montreal to play for the Stingers and attend JMSB as an international business student. “I love traveling, I speak three languages, I want to discover the world,” Blazkowski said. “If I can do this through my job, this would be perfect.”

Coming to Concordia wasn’t a hard decision. During his time in Montreal playing for Team Quebec over the summers while he was still living in France, Blazkowski met coach Beemer. He reached out to the head coach, knowing that Concordia was hosting the 2019 Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship (Nov. 20-24) and that the men’s rugby team had been successful in past seasons.

Blazkowski also previously played with many other players on the team from Team Quebec and from when he played for various other clubs, such as RC Montréal, Beaconsfield and Town of Mount Royal RFC.

“[Rugby] is the kind of sport where you go to war with people and, after a game, it’s all friends,” Blazkowski said about the sport’s culture, noting the chemistry and bonds he’s built over the years. “What you share on the field, you’ll share off the field too.”

And what they’ve shared on the field is a third consecutive all-win season, claiming the 2019-20 RSEQ Provincial Rugby Championship title on Nov. 9. With a successful year for the Stingers, Blazkowski also had an epic rookie year, and was named to the RSEQ first all-star team.

“He has really high standards. He wants to be improving all the time,” Beemer said of Blazkowski. “He already is a good player but in the two, three years he’s going to be here, he’s going to be a much better player just purely based on his own drive and his willingness to be really really good.”

Despite his obvious talent, for Blazkowski, it doesn’t matter. “I don’t really care about that kind of thing. I just want to play rugby and do my thing.”

Being a full time student isn’t an easy feat for anyone and requires a lot of time management. Playing as a varsity level athlete on top of student obligations doesn’t make things easier. On top of studying international business, rugby training and practice can take up to four hours a day, four days a week, with games on weekends. All this leaves little time for much else, but Blazkowski still manages to enjoy some leisure activities such as reading, watching sports and “hanging out with the boys.”

At the end of the day, regardless of the time and work it takes, or the honours received, Blazkowski just wants to play rugby and wants to try to make it to the highest level he can.


Photos by Laurence B.D.


Stingers to Host Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship

The Concordia Stingers men’s rugby team have reached the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship for the last two years with back-to-back undefeated seasons in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) conference. This year will mark a third appearance in as many years for them at the Championship, as the Concordia University department of recreation and athletics has been selected to host the tournament this year.

The 2019 Championship will be played at Concordia Stadium, from Nov. 20-24. It will be the third edition of the tournament, with the University of Guelph and the University of Victoria hosting the first two, respectively.

With this year’s tournament played at Concordia, the Stingers are guaranteed a berth as hosts of the event. However, Stingers players like Stephen Martinez think this secured spot won’t affect their approach this season.

“The boys still want to earn their spot in the tournament, which means finishing in first place again, even if we’re guaranteed a spot as hosts,” Martinez said. “Second place isn’t in our vocabulary. We need to work to prove that we belong there, regardless if we’re hosting or not.”

Martinez adds that having the tournament at Concordia is a great opportunity to develop Quebec’s interest in the sport.

“Having this tournament here will hopefully show some higher level teams that Quebec teams can compete and that there are a lot of talented players here,” Martinez said. “With more interest, it might spark the start of a Major League Rugby team in Montreal.”

Stingers veteran Lucas Hotton says the difference of having the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship at Concordia might be more emotional than about the game itself, as players will play in front of family and friends.

“I think that’s a huge advantage because [rugby’s] not just a physical sport, but also a very mental one,” Hotton said. “Each little play makes a big difference, and that will be the difference as you’ll see more heart and more emotion on the field.”

Martinez also sees the home crowd as a factor in such a big tournament. The Stingers are undefeated at home since 2016 and he says the plan is to keep it that way this year, including at the Championship.

“Playing in front of a home crowd can encourage us a bit more to perform once we are there. A lot of us will have family and friends there. Our club teams will be there to support us, so it will be a really good environment.”

While hosting the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship won’t change their season approach, Hotton says it can be harder for a team to focus on its season first, knowing what’s coming for them in November.

“I know a lot of the players are really excited to host the Championship, but it’s important to make sure they keep their feet on the ground and focus on one game at a time,” Hotton said. “I think that will be the approach this season, just like it’s been the last one. One game at a time, and just make sure everyone works each week as we progress through the season.”


Feature photo by Hannah Ewen

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