On Nov. 3 at Percival Molson Stadium, the McGill men’s rugby season came to a close when the team (5-2) fell to the Bishop’s University Gaiters (5-2) by a score of 19-17. With this semi-final loss, McGill was eliminated from the RSEQ playoffs.
Bishop’s was in control of the action throughout the first half. After opening scoring with a try 15 minutes in, the Gaiters followed up with a successful free kick shortly after to take a 7-0 lead. They then extended the lead to 14 with a second try and free kick. McGill’s only points of the half trimmed Bishop’s lead to nine: Third-year hooker Alex Pantis scored a try, but McGill could not convert for the extra two points, and so the half ended with a score of 14-5 in the Gaiters’ favour.
Bishop’s carried its momentum into the second half, quickly scoring a try. However, the Gaiters were unable to convert for the two additional points. Then, the McGill offence started to take over. Third-year outside-centre Jessen Gibbs scored a try to cut the Bishop’s lead to nine; later, with minutes to go, first-year fullback Benjamin Russell reached the end zone to make it 19-15, and a two-point kick brought McGill within two. Unfortunately, time ran out, ending both McGill’s comeback bid and its season while Bishop’s booked its ticket to the RSEQ Championship.
“It was all going to come down to who was going to make the most mistakes,” first-year fly-half Owen Cumming said. “We had too many penalties in the first half, and that cost us pretty heavily.”
Ultimately, it was a successful season for the McGill men’s rugby squad. They finished with a regular season record of 5-1, which earned them second place in the RSEQ. Their only regular season loss came on Oct. 19 against the undefeated Concordia Stingers. Unfortunately, McGill’s attempt to win their first championship since 2015, and its sixth in the last 10 years, fell short. Though the loss was disappointing, the team held their heads high and appreciated this season’s success.
“From the start, the team was more cohesive than I’ve seen it since I started playing here,” Gibbs said. “The wins we locked down were certainly a product of our bond, and I am confident that this team will be in the finals next year.”
Gibbs, the team captain, was named an RSEQ first-team all-star. His faith that the future is bright for his squad extends down the roster: Among this increasingly-cohesive unit were ten rookies, including Cumming and second row Karl Hunger, who agreed with Gibbs’ assessment of the bond that the team shared this season.
“The older players made sure all the younger guys felt included and part of something bigger than just a rugby team,” Hunger said. “Together, we’ve built a strong bond between all players on and off the field which I believe is a very important part of having a rugby club.”
Moment of the Game:
The crowd erupted as Benjamin Russell scored a try in the final 15 minutes of the match to pull McGill within two points, giving the team and the fans hope that they could complete the comeback.
“Seeing my team stand tall and support each other following such a devastating loss is the greatest success that I could ask for.” – Captain Jessen Gibbs on the teamwork within the McGill locker room.
McGill had one of the RSEQ’s strongest defences this season, surrendering only 61 points all year, and fewer than 10 points in four of their six regular season outings.