“For Our Brothers”

Men’s Rugby Team Hopes To Return to RSEQ Finals Despite Changes to Roster

The Stingers men’s rugby team has to bounce back from another loss and gain momentum going into the playoffs. Photo Nikolas Litzenberger
The Stingers men’s rugby team has to bounce back from another loss and gain momentum going into the playoffs. Photo Nikolas Litzenberger

For Concordia’s men’s rugby team, the expectations are always high. The Stingers are the reigning champions of the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec after finally defeating their rivals, the McGill Redmen. Concordia has reached the RSEQ championship game for the last five seasons, all against McGill, but only won over their cross-town rivals last year.

This year, the Stingers are looking to repeat their win for the second time since 2000, but the team is fighting an uphill battle. The Stingers lost this past Friday to the Université de Montréal Carabins and have now fallen to a 2-3 loss-win record in the season. Their hopes to lead their pool are pretty much gone.

“Our tackling was absolutely atrocious tonight, again,” said Stingers head coach Clive Gibson. “This is not new, this is something we’ve had a problem with through the season, and we’re still having a problem with it.”

But Gibson has called the team possibly the best he’s ever trained. Aspirations were high coming into the season. Instead, Gibson and his team struggled to replace departing veterans from last season.

“We had a 50 per cent turnover between kids graduating, kids failing and kids deciding not to come back to the team,” Gibson said. “Out of eight front row forwards that I had prepared to come back this year, I ended up with three.

“That shows where we are in the scrum, when five out of eight front row forwards are not coming back, you’re going to pay for it—and we are,” he added.

With many rookies on the team, some adversity was expected. The team has lost 18 players from last year’s squad, including former captain Joseph Fulginiti.

“We lost huge pillars and it’s hard to put them back,” said Stingers captain Andreas Krawcyzk.

“[We have] a lot more talent,” said Graeme McClintock, a second-year player. “We figure we can use all this talent to break the line and make some wins, but we just go to put the fine-tuning details, the basics, perfect them and bring them together.

Concordia also has to deal with a new playoff system. The RSEQ has now been separated into two pools of three teams, but still have only four playoff spots. Previously, all teams were in one division, and the top four would make the postseason.

The first-place teams in their respective pools automatically advance to the semi-finals, what is normally called a “bye,” while the second-place teams must play a wildcard game to advance to the semis.

One pool has the McGill Redmen, the Bishop Gaiters and RSEQ newcomers the École de technologie supérieure Piranhas. The Stingers are currently second in their pool, below the division-leading UdeM Carabins, whom the Stingers lost to this past Friday evening, and above the Sherbrooke Vert et Or.

Concordia, who had prioritized getting first place in their pool, are seven points behind the Carabins, and have seemingly settled on the reality that they will have to enter the playoffs as a second-place team in the pool. The Stingers will have two more games against bottom-feeders Sherbrooke and ETS to improve their standing.

“[The Stingers] are going to have to work harder, they’re not going to get the bye,” said Gibson. “They’re not going to get the rest. They got a lot more work to do.”

“It means we get to play some more rugby and I love training with these guys, they’re my family, my brothers, so if there’s one more game to the finals, then it’s going to take one more game to the finals,” said Krawczyk.

Bleeding from a cut during the game, McClintock summed up his thoughts for the rest of the season.

“We got the taste of blood, we’re going to want it more,” he said.