On Sept. 30, a sunny fall day, the McGill Martlets women's rugby team (0-5) took on the visiting Carleton Ravens (3-1). Carleton took an early lead, but the Martlets rallied in a losing cause to finish the game with a 33-21 scoreline.
Carleton pulled ahead with a dominant first half: They scored two tries in the first 25 minutes, and kept the Martlets from breaking out of their own half. The Ravens led 12-0 as the squads headed into the halftime break.
Early in the second half, Carleton scored two more tries, widening the gap to 26-0, but the Martlets refused to go down without a fight. In the 53rd minute of play, forward Dori Yeats scored McGill’s first try of the game. Spurred on by Yeat’s efforts, the Martlets pushed for another try and were rewarded when Emily Challice scored their second try only five minutes later.
Buoyed by that momentum, the Martlets secured a third try—a team effort driven by big runs from centres Madeline Avery and Nicole Deacon. McGill managed to quell Carleton’s offence for much of the second half, fighting to keep the ball off the ground in the try zone, and making big tackles close to their own line.
“I think that we had a lot of momentum going,” Challice said. “We kept possession, we were winning our own ball, [and] had a lot of good line breaks the entire game.”
The Ravens eventually managed to score an additional try, but the Martlets maintained their high work rate and were competitive in their individual matchups for the remainder of the game.
Though the team was dealt its fifth consecutive loss of the season, spirits were high in the McGill camp after the final whistle. Head Coach Magali Harvey, who is partway through her first season, credits the resurgence to their fitness level and spoke highly of the team’s tenacity.
“From beginning to end, we pushed,” Harvey said. “Often, when we get scored on two or three times, we just stop playing. This time, we kept going, and […] we scored tries and we played as a team.”
The Martlets have two games left in their seven-game season: A home tilt with Bishop’s University on Oct. 6, and an away game against Université de Montréal on Oct. 14. After a difficult start, Harvey was encouraged by Saturday’s result, and hopes the team can continue to grow for the rest of the season.
“A lot of [our] players who are starting right now are rookies, first years, second years, so they haven’t done a lot of rugby in their lives,” Harvey said. “At this point, seeing this game, I really think we can win both [of our remaining] games.”
Since winning the RSEQ championship in 2013, McGill has struggled to make an impact in their talent-heavy conference. Prior to Saturday’s match, the Martlets lost by large margins to league-leading Ottawa and Laval squads, but the team was reassured by their result against the Ravens. Challice, a fifth-year anatomy and cell biology student, is happy with the progress the team has made in her tenure, and shares Harvey’s positive outlook on the team’s future.
“For the last couple years, we’ve had a rough go of it with our team,” Challice said. “Now we’re a downtown team. All of our practices are downtown, which allows us to have a lot more practices, a lot more commitment, and I think that’s really going to push this team.”
Moment of the game:
In the 58th minute of play, eight-man Emily Chalice picked the ball out of a ruck and dove across the line, scoring McGill’s second try of the game.
Stat of the game:
Kicker Dana Silvera went 3-for-3 on her conversion attempts.
Quote of the game:
“I think really, after this game, we’ve seen that we can get numbers on the board. It’s not out of reach.” – U3 Civil Engineering student and Martlets rugby forward Dori Yeats.