By Earl Zukerman
Four different players scored tries as McGill defeated Concordia 24-18 to capture their seventh consecutive RSEQ men’s rugby championship before more than 300 at Concordia Stadium, Sunday.
It marked the third time in as many years that the Redmen had beaten their cross-town rivals in the Quebec university final.
Forward Ian Carvalho-Campos, a 6-foot-6 senior from Sao Paulo, Brazil and Zechary Miller, a senior winger from Toronto, each tallied tries in the first half to give the Redmen a 12-6 lead into the intermission. McGill ran into foul trouble however and Concordia took advantage with a pair of first-half penalty goals by Joey Fulginiti, a freshman from Ile-Bizard, Que., who ended up with a game-high eight points, including one conversion.
The teams traded four tries, back-and-forth, in the final stanza.
Joshua Blair, a third-year centre from Franklin Centre, Que., put McGill ahead 19-6 only three minutes into the second half. Montrealer Alfredo Cosentino gave the Stingers some hope when he scored five minutes later, narrowing the gap to 19-11. But Robert Ashe, a sophomore winger from Ottawa, replied for the Redmen in the 63rd minute as McGill took a comfortable 24-11 advantage.
Concordia’s Dario Pellizzar, a senior flanker from Montreal, was awarded a penalty try to close out the scoring with two minutes remaining.
“It definitely wasn’t our best played game of the season… but a lot of that can be attributed to how well Concordia played defensively and their ability to kill the ball in the rucks without being penalized,” said McGill head coach Craig Beemer, in his fifth year as head coach and seventh season with the program overall. “I was confident throughout the game but it took until the final whistle to ensure the win. It seemed like we received about 10 consecutive penalties in the last 10 minutes with the referee waving off a try for us and awarding a penalty try to Concordia which was what really made the game close.”
McGill’s Cameron Perrin, who hails from North Vancouver, B.C., added a pair of conversions and teammate Thomas Kirkman-Gagnon, a third-year lock from Sherbrooke, was named as his side’s man of the match. Marc Roche, a native of Johannesburg, South Africa, received similar honours for the Stingers.
“This season was easily the most tumultuous of my seven years,” said Beemer, whose troops won all 10 games but forfeited the first four after discovering that that a player had become ineligible when he dropped some of his academic course-load. “The guys really responded well though, finishing the season by winning our last four games and then going on the road for the playoffs, beating both Bishop’s and Concordia to win the championship. It was the most senior team I have had the pleasure of coaching and that definitely helped our program deal with the unfortunate forfeits.”
The Redmen could lose as many as 15 players, including Alex Sunell of West Vancouver, who spent the past three years as team captain and Andrew Robertson, an exchange student from Australia. Other expected losses to graduation include Miller, Carvalho-Campos and Kirkman-Gagnon, plus Hasan Akbar, Michael Bourdeau, Keelan Chapman, Trevor Clarke, Colin Gallacher, Devon Howard, Daniel Levin, Roderick MacKenzie, Matthew Mercuri and Liam O’Briain.
“We lose a lot of seniors this year… but we do have a lot of starters coming back,” noted Beemer, who has guided the team to a 66-6 record in RSEQ, including the four wins that were later forfeited. “However, the fact that we have approximately 70 athletes a part of our program…is really the reason we continue to find success. When one athlete graduates there are already two guys looking to fill his place. We will definitely have another strong team next year as we have over half the starting lineup coming back and a lot of other players on the depth chart just waiting for their turn to show their talent. The hardest part of my job the past few years has been making selections for the game.”