This past Saturday, the McGill Redmen attempted to extend their winning streak to three games in their home opener at Percival Molson stadium. Having edged-out both Sherbrooke and Université de Montréal by uncharacteristically narrow margins, the team claimed a more decisive victory against the Concordia Stingers, winning the match 35-28.
McGill started slowly and soon fell behind after Concordia’s Joseph Fulginiti converted a kick. This lit a fire under the Redmen as they finally awoke from their slumber and responded with a try of their own, courtesy of senior fullback Cameron Perrin, who went on to tally a total of 15 points during the game.
Turnovers were undoubtedly an issue for the Redmen, but Assistant Coach Ian Baillie has an optimistic outlook for the team’s progress.
“We took care of the ball a lot better than we have the last little while,” Baillie said. “We have to continue to build up our handling skills.”
Concordia mounted a bit of a comeback in the second half, keeping the pressure on McGill. Fans were on the edge of their seats with two minutes to go in the match, watching the Redmen fight to hold onto a 30-28 lead.
Sophomore flanker Konstantin Born spoke about the team’s motivation during the game.
“I mean, it’s always hard against Concordia,” he said. “For the last three years we [have played] against Concordia in the finals, so it was a big game for us today. Especially as the first two games of the season didn’t go that well. We really wanted to show that […] we can do better than that and beat Concordia today.”
The Redmen managed to open up the lead in the dying minutes of the game, closing out the match 35-28.
The Redmen lost a number of valuable starters last year, including fly-half Connor McKenzie, and prop Alex Sunell who was team captain for the past three years. With former assistant coach Eric Van Sickle taking on the head coaching position, as well as the roster losses due to graduation, McGill is on a rebuilding path.
“We’re young, we have a lot of inexperience,” Assistant Coach Baillie said. “But the guys that are still around–we have a number of really good leaders. They’re bringing the young guys along, but absolutely, there are some guys that you feel their absence when they’re gone [….] Guys [are] playing out of position and learning new roles. [They] have embraced it and are getting better and better each week.”
McGill seems to be on the right track. This is the team’s widest victory margin of the season, and they’re all focused on continuing that pattern, according to Born.
“The rucking was really good today. We were all going in [and] we were fighting for the ball. We had a couple of really good runs from our backs—both [the] forwards and backs worked really well together,” he noted. “We have a lot of new guys in, so the communication has to get a little better, but [this game] was really great. I mean, there are a couple of challenges coming up for sure, but in general, I think we’re doing well [and] going the right way.”
The Redmen are poised and ready to take on the Bishops Gaiters at home this coming Thursday. Focused on winning their eighth consecutive RSEQ title, the team should continue developing their younger talent and remain a dominant presence in the league.