Sebastien Boyer, a rookie from the Town of Mt. Royal, Que., celebrated his 21st birthday by scoring a last-second try and Thomas Stokes of Vancouver, B.C., made the conversion on the final play of the game to cap a magical come-from-behind victory as McGill edged the Montreal Carabins 10-9 to capture the RSEQ men’s rugby championship, on Friday the 13th.
It marked McGill’s 15th straight appearance in the Quebec league championship game and was their ninth conference title in 10 years. The game was played in a constant drizzle before 997 fans at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium, easily the largest crowd ever to witness a Quebec university rugby game.
The finish was eerily similar to last year’s RSEQ final when Concordia edged McGill 20-18 in double overtime on Nov. 23, 2014. The Stingers tied the score at 16-16 on the final play of regulation time with a try and conversion to force two 10-minute overtime periods.
It was the first appearance in the Quebec final by the upstart Carabins, who joined the RSEQ in 2012, finished this season with a solid 5-2 record, then surprised Bishop’s 22-11 in last week’s semifinal.
McGill took an early 3-0 lead on a 33-yard penalty-kick by Christian Palmer but Pierre Constantin, who tallied all nine points for UdeM, tied it at 3-3 with a 17-yard penalty kick in the final minute of the first half. Constantin, the Carabins team captain, then got the ball back seconds later and tallied a rare drop kick goal, from 25-yards out, to give the Carabins a 6-3 advantage on the last play of the half.
Constantin added another penalty kick in the 53rd minute of play and that’s the way it remained until the dying seconds of regulation time, when Boyer, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound economics freshman who plays on the back row, took a lateral pitchout from the scrum, zig-zagged eight yards through a throng of players and dove across the goal-line to set the table for the winning conversion by Stokes.
“When I struck the ball and saw it go through the uprights I felt relief first, the immense elation,” Stokes said to the media.”My immediate reaction was to run over to my teammates and celebrate the moment with them.”
“I was just thinking about all the hard work we’ve put in… since day one,” Boyer told The McGill Tribune. “Especially for all our graduating players, I just couldn’t fathom losing out like that.
“One of the (Montréal) players was out of position,” added Boyer, who was named earlier as the RSEQ rookie of the year in men’s rugby. “I just thought ‘this is it.’… It felt unreal—on my birthday, in front of all my friends, my family, and a huge McGill crowd, you just couldn’t have scripted it better.”
The try and winning conversion capped a frantic finish that featured an astonishing 61 play sequences, known as phases, most of them with McGill swarming inside the Carabins 20-yard line, for the last eight minutes of the contest.
“I could tell everyone was exhausted,” said team captain Mitchell Cuillerier, a physical education senior who is among 11 McGill players not expected to return next year. “But when I looked in their eyes, I could see nobody was going to quit… The greatest part about playing Redmen rugby is the connection and bond you make with your teammates.”
“Credit to (the Carabins), they put a lot of pressure on us,” said head coach for Ian Baillie, who was elevated to bench boss this season and guided the Redmen to a 6-0-1 first-place finish atop the RSEQ standings and a 2-0 mark in post-season play. “They played a very good tactical game.
“In the last nine minutes of running time… we ran 61 phases of rugby and that’s really something. We had a couple of little hiccups but five penalties (by the Carabins) allowed us to retain possession. But in that time, that stage of the game, to maintain possession like that was very impressive. Quite a feat by the guys.”
It was the third championship of the fall semester for McGill’s varsity sports program, which also captured the Canadian Collegiate Baseball Association banner and the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association crown
Click on the thumbnail to watch the video highlights of the championship game