Blue Down, Red to Go
Stingers Clinch Fifth Straight Finals Appearance Versus McGill Redmen
On one side of the Concordia Stadium stands, there were chants from the Stingers fans. On the other side, Carabins fans tried to outscream their rivals. Needless to say, it was an emotional semifinal game for both teams and their fans on Sunday afternoon.
The Stingers secured their fifth straight appearance in the Réseau de sport étudiant du Québec final with a hard fought 16-14 win over the Université de Montréal Carabins in their semi-final matchup. It will be the fifth straight final to pit the Stingers and their rivals McGill Redmen against each other. The Redmen have won all five times in the championship game.
“Heading into another one against McGill I’d really like to win one,” said Stingers head coach Clive Gibson. “It’s getting a little monotonous losing to McGill over and over so hopefully we can turn this one over.”
Concordia hosted Montreal for the second time in two weeks, having beaten the Carabins in their season finale a week earlier. The Carabins looked to exact revenge, but it was the Stingers who struck first.
In the 27th minute, a scrum awarded to Concordia in Montreal’s territory gave Concordia an opportunity to score. A quick pass from scrum-half Connor O’Hara to winger Fred Kacou, who ran down the sideline and into the try zone, was enough for the Stingers to put up the first points of the game.
“It was a play that we worked out in practice, and it worked out in the game perfectly,” said Kacou about the try.
Having broken the ice, the Stingers didn’t hesitate to get another try on the scoreboard as fly half Yannick Fortin added to the score with a try of his own. Unfortunately for Concordia, those two tries weren’t converted as fullback Joseph Fulginiti missed both kicks, leaving the Stingers with a 10-0 lead.
Things didn’t get better for the Stingers’ kicker as Concordia was awarded a penalty at the 38th minute and he still missed the opportunity. Regardless, Concordia carried their 10-0 lead to halftime.
As the second half began, the Stingers finally began to convert their kicks. Anthony McQueen converted a penalty at the fifth minute to raise the lead to 13 points. Fulginiti broke his cold streak by converting one as well, giving the Stingers a 16-0 advantage.
“I tried to focus on technique and form,” said Fulginiti on how he brought his kicking game back at the half. “Sometimes you get out of focus during the game so you kind of lose your technique. So you just try to bring it back to the basics.”
Despite the 16-0 lead, the Carabins still made an effort to get back into the game and chip at the lead.
Pierre Constantin of the Carabins busted through the Stingers defense in the 61st minute for the Carabins’ first try of the game. The Carabins converted their ensuing kick, cutting the deficit to nine points.
Four minutes later, Clément-Olivier Mainville scored another try, trimming Concordia’s lead to only two points. At that point, the only thing one could hear from the stands was UdeM’s famous chant “Allez les Bleus.”
This put the Stingers on their back heels and nervousness was felt all the way from the wooden seats of Concordia stadium.
Not long after that, at the 37th minute, Fulginiti had a chance to increase the lead to five points with a penalty but missed his attempt, keeping the score at 16-14.
In the final minutes of the game, the Carabins were allowed a penalty. The team decided to pass on taking the penalty kick, but they got stopped in their tracks by the Concordia defence.
“If they opted to kick that penalty and take three points, we [would’ve been] one point down with three minutes to go,” said Gibson. “Instead, they chose to go for it and thank God for this, because it worked for us. We could have just as easily lost that game by one point as we could have won it by two.”
“You know, testosterone-filled men don’t make the best decisions.”
UdeM’s decision indeed benefitted the Stingers, as the Carabins did not have enough time to get points on the scoreboard. A roar of joy came from the right try zone where all the Concordia players were defending an incoming try. The referee whistled the end of the game, sending the Stingers to the finals and allowing them to breathe a sigh of relief.
“[The Carabins] know they didn’t play a good game. We got lucky, quite frankly,” said Gibson. “There was joy and relief because it was touch and go right to the end.”
Unlike last year, the Stingers will host the championship game against McGill at Concordia Stadium, something that Coach Gibson feels his players will take advantage of.
“Psychologically, it’s good for the boys,” explained Gibson. “They know that they won [home field advantage] and they’ll go in the game with the ‘we’re on top’ mentality. That’s the thing with having home field.”
As for the players, the idea of another final against McGill couldn’t be better.
“It’s going to be a big game, that’s for sure,” said first-year prop Stephen Martinez. “We want to get them back. They’ve had it for God knows how many years and I think it’s time for us.”
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