Concordia 22, Bishop’s 20: Back to Back Champions

Men’s Rugby Win Their Closest Game of the Year to Earn Second Trip to Nationals

For the second consecutive season, the Stingers men’s rugby team are the RSEQ champions. Photo Elisa Barbier

As fans flooded the field, Drake’s “Back to Back” blared from the speakers at Loyola field. The Concordia Stingers had just won their second RSEQ rugby title in two years.

“Two for two, that’s not bad,” said Stinger Lucas Hotton with a smile. Hotton scored a try and was a dominant force carrying the ball against the opposing Bishop’s University.

The team now boasts not only two championship titles, but two perfect seasons with no losses over that span.

It’s a night and day change from where the program once was.

“It’s been a slow build over three years. Three years ago we were 1-7 so to go 9-0 [last year] and then 8-0, you just have to give it to the guys who are willing to listen and put the work in,” said head coach Craig Beemer.

Beemer credits the level of success with the constant effort of players and support staff along with the strong structure of the team.

The Stingers went undefeated in the regular season two years in a row to get to this point, where they faced a tough opponent in the Bishop’s Gaiters. Photo Elisa Barbier
Just because they were fighting for the same provincial result this year didn’t mean the team stopped evolving according to players though. It was a much more difficult battle to a perfect finish the second time around.

“There’s a big difference between winning championships and defending championships. Defending championships hurts a lot more,” said Stinger Moritz Wittman. “Teams are coming after you, they’re targeting you, and they know what to expect so you have to really knuckle down and put your body on the line.”

That’s exactly what happened against a tough Bishop’s team in the final. The kind of domination on both offense and defense that Concordia is used to was just not possible. After a year of over 250 points for an average of less than a single try and convert against per game, the Stingers ended the year in as tight of a game as they’ve seen in a long time.

“You’re put under pressure that you haven’t experienced before. It’s about how you react to that pressure as a team. Are you able to soak it up and keep playing or do you panic?” said Wittman.
Concordia may have had reason to panic early on. They had some costly handling mistakes in the first half and were down 14-12 against a team they had crushed in their regular season matchup.

Now, the team sets their sights on the national championships, where they’ll face the top teams from across the country. Photo Elisa Barbier
They started the second half not only down on the scoreboard, but facing winds of over 40 kilometres per hour that they had had to kick into for the back half of the game.

Wittman said the team regrouped early on and made sure not to start yelling or panicking, knowing they could trust their leaders to set them right.

It took some time but they did just that. After being denied at the try line twice, Hotton pushed in to take a two point lead with 12 minutes left.

The team bent without breaking as they allowed a penalty kick several minutes later but answered with the game winning kick from Jonathan Banks and a strong defensive effort to close out the match.

The team now heads off to the national championships in Victoria. Last year the results weren’t good for them, but they have reason to believe things will be different this time around.

“Last year we won the league and then we were kind of done. This year we have bigger goals,” said Wittman of his teams plans for the national championships.

For now, they’re taking the time to prepare as best they can to take on the rest of the country’s best.