“I think it was a little too exciting today,” said Martlet rugby Head Coach Matthew Stephens following an exciting contest as McGill (3-3) overcame the Montreal Carabins (3-3) 23-21 in a must-win game on Saturday at Molson Stadium.
A penalty was called in the final seconds of the game, with McGill only two points ahead. The crowd waited in earnest, uncertain as to whom it was awarded. After some deliberation, the referee ruled in favour of McGill and a roar went up from the crowd. The Martlets duly ran out the clock to claim the hard-fought victory.
The game was tense throughout, as senior centre Caroline Suchorski scored the winning penalty kick from 40 yards out with only four minutes left in the game. She dominated the contest in all aspects, finishing with 18 points on the night.
In doing so, Suchorski pulled McGill back into fourth spot in the RSEQ, kept the Martlets’ playoff hopes alive, and gave them the all-important tiebreaker over the Carabins.
“[We considered] this […] the first playoff game of the year,” Stephens said. “We have had must-win games for a while, and we are getting better and better.”
No one would have predicted the tense finish when McGill went into the second half up 10-0, dominating the breakdowns, forcing turnovers with aggressive, organized defence and pinpoint passing. Nor would anyone have predicted that Montreal would eventually come back all the way to take the lead when McGill jumped in front 20-7 in the 68th minute.
“I think we came out strong at the beginning of the game and pressured hard on defence,” remarked scrum-half Cassandra Walmsley. “We used our fitness and speed against [their] size.”
Indeed, the Martlets were superb in their support running. They overran the Carabins in the first half. Senior forward Emily Barber’s powerful and incisive running gave McGill its first try in the 25th minute.
Credit has to be given to the Carabins, who fought tenaciously in the second half. They broke through in the 47th minute with a try, but Suchorski responded with her own just four minutes later. However, in the 72nd and 73rd minutes, Montreal stunned McGill with a pair of breakaway tries and an imperious defensive display to take its first lead of the game.
With the Carabins clinging to their slim lead and the clock winding down, Suchorski calmly hit the go-ahead penalty kick to send the red-and-white crowd home satisfied. Stephens stated that he was pleased with the win, but he believes there is plenty of room for improvement moving towards the playoffs.
“We had the game well at hand and we started to make too many mistakes, too many basic errors,” Stephens explained. “That is something we will really have to work on for next game.”
However, it cannot be denied that the Martlets have shown impressive grit and determination in winning their last two games in the wake of a three-game losing streak.
“It’s the process,” Stephens said. “It takes a whole season to peak. We also played three of the top 10 [teams] back-to-back, one on […] three days’ rest, so that is tough.”
With the playoffs looming for the Martlets, Walmsley was overjoyed with the victory, but circumspect about the future.
“We lost our momentum a little bit,” she said. “[What] we need to work on […] is to keep our momentum throughout the game and […] not let up ever.”
McGill will face the Sherbrooke Vert et Or (1-4) in its last regular season game on Friday,