UBC 22, Concordia 18: Stingers Men’s Rugby Falls to UBC in CUMRC Semi-Final
Despite Strong Defensive Performance by Stingers, UBC’s Size Helps Them Overcome
On a brisk Friday afternoon, the Stingers men’s rugby team fought long and hard against a stacked UBC Thunderbirds’ squad in the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship semi-final.
Despite this, UBC got the best of them, pulling ahead with a 22-18 victory to earn a spot in Sunday’s gold medal game.
“I just told someone, it was a little bit cliche, but David doesn’t always win,” said head coach Craig Beemer after the game.
The Stingers went into this game with the knowledge that they were up against stiff competition. With Rugby Canada centralized in British Columbia, the Thunderbirds have a vast pool of talent to draw from and many of their players have been members of provincial or national teams. Not to mention, the sheer size of the players on their roster in comparison to the Stingers.
With that in mind, the Stingers also had faith in what they could do and their own style of play. What they’ve been doing has been very successful recently, as Beemer expressed after their win over Guelph on Wednesday night.
To start things off, the Stingers fell victim to weak scrums and unlucky line outs, allowing UBC to score two tries within the first 15 minutes of the first half to pull ahead 12-0. Towards the end of the first half, Concordia finally started to get a little bit more physical, which was an asset against such a big team.
“Scrums and lineouts were a little bit tough,” said Beemer. “I think you saw in the second half we just decided to play rugby and keep the ball in the field and play.”
With a penalty kick late in the half, Aiden McMullan helped his team onto the board for the first time. Shortly after, Stingers flanker Tye Wallace took a nasty elbow to the head with no immediate call from officials on the play, eliciting a series of outcries from Stingers coaching staff up in the press box.
Headed into halftime, UBC was up 12-3 over the Stingers but as this tournament has shown, this was not necessarily an indicator of things to come.
Coming back for the second half, Concordia got the chance to go for the penalty kick after UBC failed to get back 10 yards on a previous penalty. Having proven the value a penalty kick can hold in their first game of the tournament, they took it.
Aiden McMullan lined up and sent the kick wide, but the Stingers offence was on and managed to chase and recover the ball, scoring a try as a result. On the conversion kick McMullan was able to send it exactly where it needed to go to make it 12-10 for UBC.
They had yet another chance to take the penalty kick, and seeing how well it worked out last time, they went for it. This time it was successful and for the first time all game, the Stingers had the lead.
All they had to do was defend, and their defence worked overtime to keep their opponents out, repeatedly forcing them back out of the try zone. However, UBC eventually managed to break through, scoring another try.
With UBC leading 19-13, things started to get really interesting. Once again, Concordia had to defend their try line, managing to keep UBC out and this time for good. UBC was offered a penalty kick and they went for it, extending the lead to 22-13.
“Just at the end there, that stand there where they ended up having to kick for three points, that was a statement right there,” said Beemer.
Having worked so hard over the last season, the Stingers weren’t about to let this one go without getting the last word.
With moments left to play, Concordia went for one last try. On the last play of the game, McMullan took the ball and dove across the UBC try line to make the score 22-18 in favour of the reigning national champions.
“[The penalty kick] put the game out of reach, but we come back and score,” Beemer continued. “I’m not really thinking x’s and o’s right now, but I’m really thinking of how proud of my guys I am right now.”
“I’m proud of the boys,” said graduating forward Dylan MacDonald. “It’s a bit tough to get so close and then lose in the end but the boys really put their body on the line, it feels good.”
Despite the tight loss, Beemer was not unhappy with the way things turned out.
“I’m a little bit in awe right now,” said the coach. “I’m feeling like maybe we should have won, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I guess I think there’s no question the heart that my team has. They didn’t back down and in a lot of ways in the second half, we took it to them.”
When you look back on the Stingers’ performance in previous tournaments when facing those BC teams, the growth that this team has seen is evident. At last year’s national championships, Concordia lost 41-8 to UBC before going on to claim fourth place, and in the year prior, they lost 46-0 and placed last.
Now, the Stingers move on to face the Queen’s Gaels in the bronze medal final on Sunday at 10:30 a.m.
Beemer said the team is unlikely to change much going into this game. Rather, they’ll focus on ensuring players are healthy and well-rested after these last two games.