The Redmen rugby team was in for a challenge on Wednesday night against the Concordia Stingers. First, an ineligibilty issue had retroactively voided their first four regular season games, sending McGill from the top to the bottom of the RSEQ standings. Second, the Redmen were facing a revamped Stingers’ side, reinforced with newly added club players, which improved the team’s ability. Nevertheless, the Redmen persevered for a 13-6 victory.
While McGill (1-4) outplayed Concordia (3-2) in the first half, its halftime lead was marginal at 5-3. McGill’s Head Coach Craig Beemer was less than impressed.
“Offensively, we squandered way too many opportunities … we dropped at least six or seven balls near their try line when we had good scoring opportunities,” Beemer said. ”If we hadn’t dropped so many balls going into contact, we probably could have put four or five more tries on the scoreboard.”
The first try was tallied after fourth-year hooker Keelan Chapman bulldozed through three Concordia players, side-stepped another, and dove into the try zone. The Redmen had to fight for their opportunities against a particularly effective Concordia defence. However, Chapman enjoyed the competition.
“It’s always fun to run up against your rivals and smash some of the boys, especially at Molson stadium with the home fans. It’s a sensation you can’t get anywhere else in the world,” he said.
McGill generated offence by running through phases well, and thrived when they rucked the ball over and made use of the whole field. At times, Concordia was able to execute some big hits, but this was to be expected given McGill’s constant ball possession.
“What [fans] notice is that we had the ball 70 per cent of the time. If we have the ball, we’re the only ones going to be tackled,” Beemer added.
Even when Concordia earned possession, the Redmen ploughed through their well-formed rucks to put pressure on the scrum-half, and quickly stole the ball back. McGill’s defensive tactics frustrated Concordia, and the Stingers gained their points only through penalty kicks. Coach Beemer was quite pleased with his team’s defence.
“Our defence was the big winner in the sense that every time they got the ball we got it right back,” Beemer said. “We played well the whole game defensively, [had] a lot of big hits where [the Stingers] ended up on their backs or ended up moving backwards.”
McGill continued to stymie Concordia in the second half. The Redmen slowly and methodically marched towards Concordia’s try zone, where Chapman converted another try, making the score 10-3. Concordia answered a few minutes later with a penalty kick, momentarily cutting the Redmen lead to four.
Soon enough though, Quentin Pradere, who missed two penalty kicks earlier in the half, successfully converted one to make the score 13-6. Needing only a try and a conversion, Concordia had a few chances to tie the score as the match wound down. In the last 15 seconds, the Stingers had an opening to run the whole field for a try, but as the wing received a pass from the outside-centre, he fumbled it, causing a knock-on call. The match ended, with McGill victorious, 13-6.
The victory demonstrates the team’s strong spirit in the aftermath of the ineligibility news. Looking forward to their last three regular season games, McGill’s strong-hitting flanker Liam O’Briain is determined that the team can still win a division title, despite being stuck in a 1-4 hole after previously being undefeated.
“Our goal is to win them, win them handily, and win a championship,” he said.
McGill hits the pitch again on Oct. 13 against the Montreal Carabins at McEwan Field on MacDonald Campus.