Concordia 10, Guelph 7: Stingers Men’s Rugby Prevails in First CUMRC Matchup
Strong Defensive Performance Keeps Stingers in the Running
The Stingers owed almost everything to defence in their opening matchup of the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship on Wednesday night. Facing off against the fifth-seeded Guelph Gryphons, the Stingers held their opponents off until the very last moments of the game, narrowly escaping with a 10-7 win to move on to the tournament semi-final.
“A win is exactly what I was hoping for,” laughed head coach Craig Beemer after the game.
“Unfortunately when you don’t score the points that you need to score and the game gets tight, you can end up with a crazy finish like that. Hats off the Guelph, they battled for the full 60 minutes of that game and really put us under pressure in the end.”
Concordia got off to a very strong start, and it was evident in their demeanour and their body language that the team was excited to take the field in their first game as hosts of the third annual national championship tournament. They looked like a team that came to win.
“The fans came and it was good to have the game at 6:00 p.m so that everyone could come out after work,” said rookie Aiden McMullan. “It’s great to have family and friends come out and cheer you on and support you throughout this whole season where we worked and putting lots of hours every day and it’s finally come to this tournament and we’re just going to keep on going.”
Their enthusiasm and initial drive paid off as veteran forward Stephen Martinez scored the first try of the evening. McMullan successfully converted, and just like that, the Stingers were leading 7-0.With the game in reach for the Gryphons, their offence kicked it into overdrive, testing the Stingers defensively, which they would continue to do all night. However, the Stingers would not be pushed around, continuing to make clean hits and dominate the scrums.
“We showed up,” said veteran Thomas Goetz of his team’s performance.
The Stingers let up a little towards the end of the first half, allowing their opponents to get dangerously close to their try line. Guelph had the chance to shorten the lead with a penalty kick late in the first half, but to no success.
The Stingers went into intermission up 7-0 and looking to maintain the lead through the second half. While the Stingers may have looked off to close out the first, that had been shaken off and they started the second with renewed energy.
With the game just out of reach for the Gryphons, they continued to put pressure on the Stingers defensively, and the Stingers held strong, faltering slightly before regaining possession and heading up the field.
Aiden McMullan was given the opportunity to go for the penalty kick, and was successful, giving his team a little bit more cushion to their lead.
“It was only a one-score game and we were right between the posts, with, I want to say 15 minutes left and you automatically make it two scores,” said Beemer of his decision to go with the penalty kick.
It would turn out to be just the cushion the Stingers needed, as the Gryphons finally succeeded in breaking down the Stingers’ strong defence to score their first try late in the game.“They got that one break and scored in the corner and we’re still up,” Beemer continued. “It’s pretty simple in the second half, if you can advance it to another score so they have to score even more, then you take it.”
All the Stingers had to do was hold off their opponents the way they had all game, but it seemed they had to do so for longer than they thought. With an injury with about three minutes left, there was quite a bit of extra time to play out in the dying minutes of the matchup.
The tension was palpable in the stadium as fans and players anxiously awaited the final whistle signalling the Stingers eminent victory. Finally, the ball was dead and the whistle blown, sealing the deal on the Stingers’ trip to the tournament semi-final.
“This is very stressful [as a player] because you receive the ball and you don’t really know what to do, so everyone is kind of running everywhere not knowing what to do,” said Goetz. “It’s very stressful but I think we did good.”
With their first game out of the way, the Stingers will have a day off to reset before facing the two-time national champion UBC Thunderbirds on Friday at 2:30 p.m. While Thursday may not be a game day for the Stingers, the team will regroup for a team meeting and training session in order to stay in shape for their game on Friday.
UBC will prove to be a tough opponent for the Stingers, but having played them twice in past tournaments, Beemer says they know what to expect.
“We’ve already played them twice in two years, and I like our guys’ attitude right now. I think they believe in themselves and it’s more about what we’re going to do than about what UBC’s going to do,” said Beemer. “I think if you watched our defence tonight, they have to score to beat us and I like our chances.
“I think you’re going to see a really good game on Friday and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he continued. “If you’re going to win the gold medal, you have to beat the best teams so who cares when it is.”