Rugby, Sports

We are the champions, my friend: Men’s rugby captures first RSEQ title since 2015

On Nov. 4, McGill men’s rugby (6–1) faced off against Ottawa (6–1) in the RSEQ Championship match. With the bitter taste of defeat still lingering in many Redbirds’ mouths from last year’s championship, the team came ready to fight in front of their home crowd of 1,830 fans—the largest crowd to ever watch an RSEQ rugby game in Molson Stadium.

The air thick with tension, Ottawa struck first, scoring a try in the first two minutes of the match, putting the Gee-Gees up 7-0. McGill responded seven minutes later with two penalty kicks by captain Monty Weatherall to bring the score within one. However, unable to score a try, the Redbirds fell behind once again when Ottawa responded with a penalty kick of their own, giving the Gee-Gees a 10-6 lead five minutes before the half. McGill was undaunted by the deficit with third-year inside-centre Alexander Armstrong giving the fans something to cheer for, scoring a converted try and giving the Redbirds a three-point lead heading into the half.

Alexandre Laurendeau opened the second half with a try to gain the lead despite the Redbirds being one player down due to a yellow card given to tighthead prop Alex Pantis. Six minutes later, loosehead prop Nicholas Smith received a yellow card as well, leaving the Redbirds with 13 players against the Gee-Gees’ 15. Capitalizing on the Redbirds’ mistakes, Ottawa retaliated quickly with a try. A penalty kick by Martin Laval put the Redbirds up by four. 

A game-sealing try by Laurendeau cinched the game for the Redbirds, despite a final try from Ottawa. Laval made one final penalty kick to punctuate McGill’s victory as the crowd went wild for their RSEQ champions.

Fourth-year Liam Pantis had complete faith in his team’s ability to win, even when down by seven.

“They got up early and we knew that was liable to happen,” Pantis told The McGill Tribune. “A big part of our game plan is just knowing how to deal with adversity and I mean, if anything showed that, it was this game. Coming back from a seven-nothing deficit, the guys just showed a hell of a lot of grit, a hell of a lot of heart and we went out there with a purpose and we achieved it.”

Star of the game and RSEQ Rookie of the Year Laurendeau had similar sentiments to Pantis, emphasizing the chemistry and shared mindset of the squad.

“The boys played together,” Laurendeau said. “All week we’ve been prepping for Ottawa. The word was believe and I think today everybody just had the same mindset going into this from the beginning of the day to right now.”

The next stop for the Redbirds is the University of British Columbia where the 2022 Canadian Championship will be held. Armstrong explained how nationals will serve as a great learning opportunity.

“Nationals [will allow us to] get some good experience for next year,” said the rookie. “It’s going to be great fun seeing some teams we’ve never played before.”

And if you want to know if the team is excited for the opportunity to show the country what McGill rugby can do, just ask Laurendeau.

“We can’t wait [for nationals]. Book our flight, we’re going to B.C., baby!”

Quotable:

“I only take dubs. I don’t like losing and I don’t lose, so personally, just keeping the streak alive.” —Alexander Armstrong on how he has never lost a game (except maybe the one against Concordia)

Moment of the Game:

In his game-sealing try, Alexandre Laurendeau caught the ball on one sideline before deciding to gun it to the opposite corner, running through the entirety of Ottawa’s backline and earning himself RSEQ Rookie of the Year.

Stat Corner:

McGill men’s rugby has never lost a game to the Ottawa Gee-Gees with a current match-up record of 6-0 since 2018.

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