ConU Loses Third Straight Provincial Championship
McGill’s Cohesion Bests Stingers in Rugby Final
Sunday afternoon, Concordia’s men’s rugby head coach Clive Gibson looked across the field at the celebrating McGill Redmen with a dissatisfied stare.
For the third straight year, his team had been bested in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec championship final; the final scoreboard at Concordia stadium read 24-18 in favour of the visitors.
Gibson hasn’t lead his team to gold since 2005. He thought this year would finally break that drought, but it was a visibly crushing defeat for the hirsute head coach, who’s been leading the rugby Stingers since 1996, winning five provincial championships over that span.
“We thought we had a system in place that could beat them and unfortunately it didn’t work for us today,” he said. “We had a couple of bad bounces, missed lineouts here and there; [the game] didn’t go our way.”
It was a frustrating repeat of the 2011 championship, which saw the Redmen beat the Stingers 28-7.
“We were a lot closer this year,” said Gibson. “We were in it the whole game—we just couldn’t put the finish on it. The attack wouldn’t finish for us the way we needed to. We weren’t able to use the speed we had on the outsides to get the ball out.
“They had a far better game than us last year, there’s no doubt about it. This year, unfortunately, we just couldn’t manage to put the final punches together to put points on the board.”
In front of a crowd 300-strong, the Redmen went ahead early on when forward Ian Carvalho-Campos scored the first try of the game. Concordia answered with two penalty goals from centre Joseph Fulginiti near the end of the first half.
The Stingers’ 6-5 lead would be their only one of the game—by the end of the half, Redmen wing Zerchary Miller had scored another try, putting his team back up 12-6.
“They were just faster realigning, they really were,” said Gibson. “They were getting to the ball faster than we were, and as a result they were producing a quicker, more useful ball for their attack than we were able to generate.”
McGill, who beat Concordia in the cross-town rivals’ two regular season matchups this year, took the Stingers by surprise when they tore through the heart of their defence throughout the first half instead of going with their usually dominating outside play.
“We were a lot closer this year. We were in it the whole game—we just couldn’t put the finish on it. The attack wouldn’t finish for us the way we needed it to. We weren’t able to use the speed we had on the outsides to get the ball out.”
—Clive Gibson, Men’s Rugby Head Coach
The Redmen continued to employ that strategy in the second half, culminating in another McGill score when centre Joshua Blair powered into the home team’s in-goal area to make it 19-6.
“I think we were just a little more organized,” said Redmen head coach Craig Beemer.
“When we scored they were pretty clean and crisp plays—ball with the hand. I think we’re just a little more well-oiled. That was one of the stronger sides we’ve played against this year and probably in the past few finals. Concordia played great defence and they had the ball with the potential to win the game.”
Beemer said the high calibre crop of athletes that are attracted to McGill make the difference.
“It doesn’t matter what you do if you don’t have the athletes,” he said.
As the Redmen scored yet another try to solidify their seventh-straight RSEQ championship, the Stingers offence answered with one of their own from from captain Dario Pellizzari. That narrowed the score to 24-18 with two minutes left to play, but that’s as close as it would get.
“It was a battle all game long and I was proud of the guys for working hard and that’s all I can ask for,” said Pellizzari.
“A couple mistakes cost us some points and were probably what cost us the game […] Missed tackles, guys slipping out from the backs, mental lapses—nothing too serious, but McGill’s so solid and strong that they just took advantage of it.”
It was a gut-wrenching loss for flanker Pellizzari, whose CIS career ends without a single championship. The future for the now-former captain is, as of yet, undefined—though Pellizzari says he plans to play club rugby or try for Canada’s provincial league.
“It’s my fourth and final year; I’ve been [to the provincial final] three times now, finishing second [each time],” he said. “This is definitely the toughest one to swallow as captain; the closest game in terms of the intensity. It’s not easy, but life goes on.”