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Marc Webster playing Rugby
(The Redmen push the ball up the field / McGill Tribune)

No quarter given in attritional draw between McGill and Concordia

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The Redmen (2-1-2) were clearly frustrated at the final whistle of Friday’s game against Concordia (3-1-1).It was their second consecutive draw in RSEQ competition, and concluded a hard fought, yet somewhat error-prone performance, with many scoring opportunities prevented by knock-ons and penalties.

In the 70th minute, Concordia’s Yannick Fortin made a long-range penalty kick that drew the score level. The last 10 minutes of the match was marked by hard tackling–as neither team managed to make any substantial attacking inroads.

“Neither […team] really deserved to lose,” Assistant Coach Ian Baillie said. “Both worked hard [….] You never like a draw, but that is sometimes the way it comes [out].”

Both squads were committed to attacking central channels and gaining territory in the midfield. As such, both teams relied on their forwards to slow the game down at the rucks and also to serve as runners off the fly half.

Both McGill’s and Concordia’s first tries came from relentless pressure on the opposition goal line. Concordia started the match vigorously, while McGill appeared slightly shell-shocked early on–the Redmen could not keep the Stingers off the scoreboard for longer than five minutes.

After a frenetic first portion of the game, McGill settled in to the contest on defence. With calm partially restored, fullback Thomas Stokes scored a penalty kick in the 14th minute and, after waves of pressure, back row Kylan Gibbs scored McGill’s first try in the 25th minute.

In the first half, McGill seemed to win in the midfield battle. Their defence was organized and they frequently broke the gain line on offence. However, the finishing was inconsistent. Many promising Redmen attacks were blighted by knock-ons and offside penalties. The physical nature of this contest disrupted the attacking rhythms of both sides.

“[The] midfields [of…] both these clubs are the strongest in the competition,” Baillie said. “You saw them definitely fighting through one another. The support play of the forwards was crucial here. Both teams were able to get on the front foot at times [and this…] gave each side an opportunity [to score].”

McGill deservedly finished the half leading 10-8 after proving themselves to be the more effective attacking team. If not for conceded penalties, the lead would have been greater.

In the second half, Concordia adjusted and committed to their kicking game. Fortin was excellent all game. His three converted penalty kicks kept the McGill defence off-balance and pulled Concordia in front 14-10 in the 55th minute.

Stokes scored a try five minutes later to pull McGill into a lead that they failed to maintain in the last 20 minutes of the match. Baillie acknowledged the weaker second-half defensive performance.

“I thought our tackling was shoddy,” he said. “We made body contact a bit [too] high. Concordia ran hard at us and […] a number of times, we failed to take away their space [….] They managed to make the gain line because of those first contacts.”

The eight-time consecutive RSEQ Champions should not be perturbed by this underwhelming performance. They have already played the toughest portion of their matches in the regular season, and have not dropped a game to either of the teams at the top of the RSEQ standings.

“[In this competition] you need to […] build [up] to the cup round, if we continue to progress through the competition as we are, we will be happy,” Baillie said.

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