Rugby, Sports

Redbirds Rugby roars in first home win of the season against Université de Montréal

Redbirds rugby welcomed Université de Montréal’s (UdeM) Carabins on Sept. 29, eager to prove themselves on home turf after two back-to-back losses.

“Last year we had an extraordinary season, so this year it was hard to lose and realize that we weren’t necessarily at the same level,” second-year fullback and team captain Gaspard Poire said in an interview with The Tribune. “We had a lot of expectations and hope [for this match], and it was much harder than we had thought.” 

As part of the Truth and Reconciliation Games played across the lacrosse, football, rugby and hockey teams on Sept. 29 and 30, players wore orange warm-up jerseys and encouraged fans to wear orange in the stands in commemoration of Orange Shirt Day, a day meant to spread awareness of the intergenerational, settler colonial impact of residential schools. Head coach Ian Baillie stressed the importance of supporting Indigenous communities. 

“This is something we need to do,” Baillie explained. “A couple of the coaching staff, myself included, are school teachers, we celebrate this at our schools through the day in orange T-shirts. [The initiative is] player-led, not from us [….] Good to see the guys recognize that responsibility.”

Earlier that day, members of the squad expressed their support for the initiative in front of the Faculty of Education.

“Our club presidents care very much about the Indigenous legacy game and they were really working hard to get us properly showing our support,” second-row Ian McDowell said. “Part of that was the orange warm-ups. Part of that was encouraging the crowd to come out with orange [shirts]. [….] We want to show that we care and that we are supporting this cause.

The opening of the game set the tone for the evening. Within the first five minutes, outside centre Martin Laval narrowly missed the opportunity to strike first by converting a penalty kick. 

Instants before half-time, UdeM scored the first breakthrough of the match, a try followed by a conversion, setting the score at 7-0. 

The second half witnessed the Redbirds consistently applying pressure on the opponents’ defensive line. The Carabins maintained their lead with an unconverted try, pushing the score to 12-0.

Despite being pointless for most of the game, the Redbirds came back in the dying moments of the match. McDowell pierced through the Carabins’ defence and buried a try in the 59th minute, and Laval’s successful conversion narrowed the score to 12-7.   

The intensity reached new heights after UdeM’s successful penalty kick extended their lead to 15-7. However, McDowell once again broke through and managed to make a second try, quickly followed by a third, leading McGill to a miraculous 17-15 comeback. 

As the game came to a close, the pressure reached its peak with the Carabins preparing for a potentially game-winning penalty kick, however,the unsuccessful attempt gave McGill its first home win of the season. 

“We worked hard for this. We worked harder than we probably needed to,” McDowell told //The Tribune//. “This is our starting point. We needed to have this win to keep our season going properly. […] We’re building from here.”

The Redbirds (2–2) will face off against the Concordia Stingers (1–2) on Oct. 15 with the hopes of ending their nine-game losing streak against them.

Moment of the game: As the final whistle sounded, the crowd and squad erupted in joy. Second-year winger Robert “Will” Storey, who was injured during the game, hopped and celebrated on his crutches. 

Quote: “We are highly involved in our rugby community, and bringing young kids to the game where we can, and giving them the opportunity to play in front of all these people is a really good piece of what we want to be about as well.”

— Head coach Baillie on the children walking onto the field alongside the teams to start the game and playing on the field after.

Stats corner: This win brings McGill on a seven-game win streak against UdeM. 

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