Juniors play for playoff cup
U17 Edmonton Rugby Union final between St. Albert and Druids-Lep/Tigers kicks off 2:15 p.m. Saturday at Ellerslie
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 21, 2013 06:00 am
Ellerslie Rugby Park – An undefeated championship season is on the line Saturday for the St. Albert Rugby Football Club’s U17 juniors.
Kickoff is 2:15 p.m. at Ellerslie between SARFC (9-0) and the Druids-Lep/Tigers (5-4) for the Ron Allen Cup in the Edmonton Rugby Union.
The winner will also be crowned the unofficial Alberta Rugby Union champion because there is no U17 division in the Calgary Rugby Union this year.
“To win it would be big for the boys,” said fullback Chad Monai-Brophy after SARFC battled back from a 10-point deficit to beat the provincial champion Nor’Westers 36-17 in the ERU semifinals last weekend.
“To have another game to play is awesome. It’s always fun playing with these guys on the team,” added Monai-Brophy, a Team Alberta U18 bronze medallist at the recent National Championship Festival.
Last year SARFC lost the ERU final to the Nor’Westers 24-3, as Monai-Brophy’s penalty kick in the first half accounted for the SARFC scoring.
Two years ago SARFC defeated the Strathcona Druids 48-5 for ERU honours before bowing out to the Calgary Hornets in the provincial final 66-3.
Last weekend SARFC escaped a shaky first quarter down only by 10 after the Nor'Westers pounded the U17s for two unconverted tries in the opening seven minutes of one-sided rugby.
SARFC captain Austen McDonald, a gifted number-eight, blocked a short conversion attempt on the Nor’Westers’ second try.
The quarter ended with the ball at SARFC’s five-metre line after a stout goal-line stand by the U17s.
“We’ve had slow starts throughout the year. Hopefully we can fix that (for the final). We’ve got to come out hard for that one,” said Monai-Brophy, who missed a penalty kick from inside the 44-metre line late in the first quarter.
McDonald and sneaky scrum-half Jesse Shirton registered tries in the second quarter and Monai-Brophy converted both scores to put the U17s up 14-10 at halftime.
McDonald surprised the Nor’Westers on a quick penalty play from inside the 22-metre line three minutes into the quarter.
On the last play of the half, Shirton emerged with the ball from a scrum outside the 22, bolted towards the try area and hurdled a tackler in front of the posts for the first of his two tries of the match.
Eight minutes into the third quarter, and SARFC pouring on the pressure, Keegan Edwards turned the corner on a long run to finish off a lineout ball.
Monai-Brophy’s conversion kick was unsuccessful.
The fourth quarter started with SARFC pressing hard to land the knockout punch. A spirited run through traffic by Nathan Yue led to a try by Monai-Brophy, who converted his score with a difficult kick positioned near the touchline from around the 22 to make it 26-10.
Three minutes later the Nor’Westers replied with a converted try.
SARFC closed out the scoring with Monai-Brophy’s penalty kick in front of the 22 and Shirton’s try after he reeled in a Nor’Westers’ lineout ball from outside the five-metre line. Monai-Brophy converted the try.
SARFC’s dramatic turnaround from its worst quarter of the season was startling.
“We had a lot of penalties and knock-ons in the first quarter. In the second quarter and in the second half we did better with that and didn’t give them free balls. We also ran the ball really good too,” said Monai-Brophy, 17. “Nathan, our number two (hooker), had a couple of big tackles too and those really got the guys amped up.”
It wasn’t the same Nor’Westers squad that got trampled 76-7 by SARFC last month.
“They were missing a few of their key players that game but in this game they played really good. It was a good, hard game and we really had to step up our game,” said Monai-Brophy, a Grade 12 linebacker for the Austin O’Brien Crusaders last year.