The beautiful autumn afternoon seemed a good omen as any to the sold-out crowd of McGill (6–2) and Concordia (7–1) fans who gathered at Percival Molson Stadium on Nov. 6 for what they hoped would be a competitive bout of RSEQ rugby. But despite the turnout, the Redbirds fell 33-0 to the Stingers in an unfortunate end to an otherwise stellar season for McGill.
From the get-go, both teams hungered for victory, playing at a faster pace than any other game this season. The first 20 minutes were contained around the centre line, with neither team making much headway before losing the ball on a knock-on. Unfortunately, things went downhill for the Redbirds midway through the first half when Concordia’s Jean-Christophe Vinette opened up the scoring with the Stinger’s first try. Minutes later, McGill came close to scoring a try with a slew of high-quality chances at Concordia’s try line, but fell victim to tackle after tackle and could not capitalize. At the half, the scoreboard read 21-0 for Concordia.
McGill came back a renewed team at the start of the second half, holding their ground defensively but with nothing to show for it in points. Just over midway through the half, Mohammed Al Moallim of Concordia charged through a gap in the Redbirds formation and touched down on an incredible breakaway. As if to add insult to injury, the Stingers piled on another try in extra time, with Stan Blazkowski scoring and Arthur Du Chauffaut converting to end the match 33-0.
If disheartened McGill fans were hoping to trudge out of the stadium immediately following the end of the match, they were woefully optimistic. As Concordia celebrated their win, RSEQ officials trotted out victory medals. However, a fire alarm set off by a stray flare forced the confused crowd to exit the stands, saving any McGill fan from watching an almost perverse awarding of medals to the Stingers.
Scrum-half Owen Cumming, who led the Redbirds in points scored this season, expressed his frustration with the outcome.
“Today was tough, we had a game plan and it just wasn’t executed how we would have liked it,” Cumming said. “It was a physical and fast-paced game. We sadly just couldn’t get the job done.”
The Redbirds finished their season second in the RSEQ standings, with a 6-2 record overall. The club had not beaten Concordia this season, with their only matchup ending in a narrow 14-6 win for the Stingers. Two years ago, in the last season before the pandemic, Concordia conquered McGill in the finals, making Saturday’s game a difficult pill to swallow—especially for the graduating seniors. Team captain Karl Hunger, whose younger brother, Brad Hunger, is also on the team, is hopeful about the future of Redbirds rugby.
“Unfortunately, it’s my last year so the time has come for me, but I know I’m leaving the club in great hands,” Hunger said. “We’ve got an amazing group of young guys that I’m so excited to see develop their game.”
Hunger talked about the brotherhood, both literal and figurative, that has developed on the team, and expressed his gratitude toward the teammates he now calls his best friends.
“I’m so proud of the boys for their dedication to the club this season,” Hunger said. “I’ve loved every moment I have shared with my teammates, past and present. I’ve [made] best friends and formed brotherhoods that will last a lifetime. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Cumming shared his teammate’s sentiments and was grateful for the show of support from the McGill crowd, despite the loss.
“We’d especially like to thank our fans, it was such an amazing atmosphere and we hope to continue that in the years going forward,” Cumming said. “We’ve got a great program here, and we will certainly be back.”
The last time McGill men’s rugby finished a game scoreless was in 2012 against Queen’s University.
“Concordia is a good team, and they were certainly the better one on the day. All we can do from this is grow and have more and more guys say they know what being in a final is like going forward. Experience is everything in this league.” —Fourth-year scrum-half Owen Cumming
Moment of the Game: With 17 minutes left on the clock, a belligerently drunk McGill student shouted “Number 24 looks like a pumpkin spice kind of guy!” Number 24 Arthur Du Chaffaut gave the fan a knowing look, caught a turnover, and punted the ball forward for a spectacular try, bringing the score to 31-0.