Concordia 45, Bishop’s 21: Persistence Under Duress
The Bishop’s University Gaiters Prove Their Resilience Against Dominant Stinger Women’s Rugby Team
Late in the first half of an early September women’s rugby match between the Concordia Stingers and Bishop’s Gaiters, the Gaiters started to complete passes and effectively traverse the field.
Before the away team improved their quality of play, the Stingers had effortlessly sliced through their opponents’ defence and locked the play into their defensive end. Laetitia Royer initiated the Stingers’ first-half scoring spree two minutes into the game as she rumbled into the right side of the Gaiters’ in-goal area.
Concordia missed the following conversion and left points off of the board, yet members of the crowd and players on the field who were aware of the Stingers’ season-opening dismantling of the University de Montréal Carabins presumably thought the game would end in the same manner as their first.
The play remained on the Gaiters’ side of the half as the game progressed, but as the teams traded possessions, the Gaiters showed their resilience.
Nearly six minutes into the game, the Stingers were on the verge of punching the ball into the Gaiters’ in-goal area for a second score, yet the Gaiters smothered the Stingers. Concordia eventually swung the ball to Leah Lavoie, who executed a try, but the Gaiters’ hardiness would reappear throughout the game.
The Stingers continually capitalized on the Gaiters’ sloppy passes and dropped balls in the first half, but with variable frequency, the Gaiters gained possession of the ball and flashed their skill for lightning-like runs or violent ploughs through the Stingers’ defence.
As the game clock ticked past the twenty-eighth minute of the first half and the scoreboard displayed 24 points for the Stingers and zero for the Gaiters, Trish Shufelt of the Gaiters carried the ball through multiple Stingers and left a trail of sprawling bodies in her wake.
Near the thirty-eighth minute of the first half, the Gaiters’ sporadic runs and gritty defence shifted the momentum, and 10 minutes after Shufelt’s run, the Gaiters began to push the ball into the Stingers’ side of the half.
The ball remained in Stinger territory for minutes of suffocating pressure, and with an injured Stinger on the ground, Samantha Devries scored the Gaiters’ first try of the game as the first-half ended.
After the start of the second half, the Gaiters maintained their resilience, and with each Stinger possession came a turnover.
Discussing his team’s slow start, Gaiters head coach Tom Whyld suggested, “We didn’t really wake up or come off the bus until 35 minutes into the game.”
The Gaiters scored 21 unanswered points by the twenty-fifth minute of the second half and were threatening the Stingers’ once-secure lead.
However, the Gaiters’ momentum slowed as they lost energy, and Concordia regained control of the game.
In the end, Concordia stayed on top 45-21.
Throughout the game, the Stingers predicated large parts of their success on containing Erica Scott, a fourth-year Gaiter who the Stingers’ head coach, Jocelyn Barrieau had earmarked for special attention.
When asked if the Stingers had planned for Scott, Barrieau proclaimed, “She’s a fireplug, she’s a firework, she’s a sparkplug. She’s everything. She’s a game-changer. In a few moments, she can change the entire series of games. We absolutely talked about her,” said Barrieau.
Whyld noticed the Stingers defensive emphasis on Scott, commenting, “the space was closed down on her early.”
Whyld also noted how Scott adjusted her game to adapt to the Stinger’s defensive strategy. “She started moving the ball around and becoming a bit more of an organizer.”
Scott is a well-known player who regularly demands extra attention from opposing players and coaches; interestingly, squaring off against her during this game was Stingers rookie Mahalia Robinson.
Robinson was one of Barrieau’s top recruits last offseason.
Her confidence appears to be growing, and against the Gaiters, she exploded for zestful runs that sliced through the Gaiters’ defence. She exploded for her first try in RESQ play.
In the aftermath of her impressive performance, Robinson remained modest, advocating, “I think I played all right. Not my best game, but it’s not my worst game, either. But, you know rugby, it’s never about an individual.”
Rugby is a team sport that requires collective efforts to achieve common goals.
The Stingers’ next opportunity to test their cohesiveness is against University de Montréal, Sept. 13 at CEPSUM.
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