The McGill Redmen (6-1) rugby squad battled through the opposing crowds’ banter, overcame a case of dropped catches, and made a heroic goal line stand to defeat the Bishop’s Gaiters (3-3-1) 27-20 and advance to the RSEQ finals.
Bishop’s scored the first try of the game in the tenth minute on the back of a sloppy McGill play–the Redmen were already dealing with a number of dropped catches that would trouble them throughout the game.
“We definitely did not expect to drop balls like that, we can’t blame the weather because that was great weather for playoff rugby,” centre Sayf Al Omaishi said. “Usually we would see three degrees and rain. So, it was probably more a matter of [lack of] focus and of technical mistakes.”
After an early Bishop’s try, McGill responded in the 16th minute when flanker Kaleb Nimat received a pass from back row Nick Bent to tie the game at 7-7. The Gaiters punched in another try before fly-half Andrew Manson hit a penalty kick to round out the first half at 14-10.
The second half opened with the Gaiters extending their lead to 17-10 after a quick place kick. McGill responded with a try and unconverted place kick—Manson ended up missing two more place kicks. Nonetheless, his kicking in open play was crucial to the Redmen’s second half success. He frequently pinned the Gaiters in their own twenty-two, pressuring their back line.
This fluctuating game saw one last twist—in the 80th minute, Bishop’s relentlessly attacked the McGill try-line. The final play seemed to go on forever, and the crowd grew animated by the second. Nonetheless, McGill held strong, eventually forcing a penalty that sealed the game for the Redmen.
“I knew they were a strong team and were capable of scoring a try in the last minutes, so I was trying to do everything I [could] to prevent that from happening,” Al Omaishi said. “At the end, our defence proved strong and we were able to avoid an OT, coming out with the win.”
The Redmen now progress to their tenth consecutive RSEQ finals against Montreal on Nov. 13.
“It is a great accomplishment, all the hard work out on the field and off the field is finally paying off,” said Nimat. “Being the captain is just a title, we have 15 players on the pitch, which all individually contribute as leaders and this is what brings us all together.”
Quotable: “We have to come out with fire and play the whole 80 minutes like the Redmen rugby can, improve our discipline, and stick to our game plan. If we can do that, I am confident we will bring the banner back for the second year in a row.”—Captain Kaleb Nimat on what the team must do to retain the RSEQ championship.
Play of the game: A total team effort by McGill, pushing back over four waves of attacks in the 80th minute, forcing the key penalty to secure their victory
Stat of the game: Neither team led by more than seven points the entire match.
A previous version of this article stated that Nick Bent plays front row. In fact he plays back row. The Tribune regrets the error.