Juniors awarded U17 cup
Undefeated season as Ron Allen Cup champions in Edmonton Rugby Union
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013 04:15 pm
Ellerslie Rugby Park – The next generation of players at the St. Albert Rugby Football Club showcased their skills this season as the unofficial provincial U17 champions.
The SARFC juniors completed a successful 10-0 campaign in Saturday’s 36-19 triumph against the Druids-Lep/Tigers in the Edmonton Rugby Union final for the Ron Allen Cup.
It’s the second U17 championship in three years for SARFC.
“We’re going to have a great men’s squad coming up in the next few years and we’re going to have an even stronger U19 side next year. We have a ton of core guys from Paul Kane, Bellerose, SACHS and Sturgeon coming up to play for the club,” declared U17 captain Austen McDonald during a jubilant post-game celebration. “It’s such an awesome atmosphere right now. It’s riveting.”
Visit www.stalbertgazette.com to view the team picture.
There is no provincial showdown this year because the Calgary Rugby Union restructured its junior program and eliminated the U17 division.
“We would’ve loved to have shown them what real Edmonton/St. Albert rugby is,” said McDonald, 17, an eight-man who leads by example on and off the pitch.
Two years ago in the U17 provincial final the Calgary Hornets crushed SARFC 66-3 and last year the ERU champion Nor’Westers defeated the Hornets 41-15.
The last U17 loss for SARFC before winning 10 in a row was 24-3 to the Nor’Westers in the 2012 ERU final.
“It means a lot of hard work in the offseason, a lot of hard work with our high school teams and a lot of hard work with club. We’re committed,” said McDonald, a Grade 12 Paul Kane High School student.
Saturday’s playoff against the combination of Strathcona Druids and Lep/Tigers was closer than the margin of victory would suggest. The boys in red and green placed third in the five-team table and finished 5-5 overall.
“It was hard fought right from the very start,” McDonald said. “This was the best Druids’ side we’ve seen all year. They gave us a run for our money. They took some of our guys out of the game (two SARFC players were injured in the first half) but we kept our chins up high and took it to them.”
SARFC posted leads of 5-0 after the first quarter, 15-5 at halftime and 22-12 after three quarters.
“We learned our lesson last week against the Nor’Westers about coming out soft so today we came out hard. We kept the gas pedal down and didn’t let up,” said flanker Blake Schafer.
In the semifinals, SARFC escaped the first quarter lucky to be down only 10-0 after the Nor’Westers scored two unconverted tries in the opening seven minutes. SARFC regrouped to lead 14-10 at halftime, en route to the 36-17 win.
“After our last game we knew we couldn’t start the first quarter off weak. We had to go strong and send an impact throughout the game and we did that,” McDonald said.
With four minutes left in the opening quarter, Chad Monai-Brophy battled his way over the try line to score the first of the SARFC’s five tries.
His penalty kick from outside the 22-metre line early in the second quarter made it 8-0.
The Druids replied by spinning the ball to the outside for their first try.
A few minutes later, and SARFC pressing for points, McDonald pulled off a quick penalty play from outside the five-metre line and shredded tackles before crashing into the try area. Monai-Brophy kicked the conversion.
McDonald’s try was set up by a kick for touch by Monai-Brophy, followed by some slippery running by Nathan Yue after a lineout ball from outside the 22.
In the third quarter the Druids worked the ball deep across the try line before punching it in. The conversion cut the lead to three points.
On the last play before quarter time, Tyler Lynch danced his way past several defenders to finish off a determined SARFC push. Monai-Brophy converted the try.
The Druids ratcheted up their attack to start the fourth quarter, and with SARFC on its back heel, scored its last try of the match. A long conversion kick left the Druids trailing again by three.
After the try, SARFC inched its way down field and from outside the 22. Jesse Shirton avoided a gang tackle by chipping the ball straight ahead towards the posts. Schafer and a teammate raced after the ball, which took an opportunistic bounce behind the try line and away from the nearest Druid. Schafer alertly jumped up and grabbed the ball before the Druid could get a hand on it, then touched it down behind the posts for the score.
“I had to dig deep. I was really tired, but I just ran hard and got to it,” said Schafer. “It felt really good. It was my first try of the season and at a key moment too.”
The play of the game by the Grade 11 Paul Kane student sealed the deal.
“When Blake took the chip and chase and smacked it down that’s when we all knew we were ending up on top,” McDonald said.
With only a few minutes remaining, Brad Holmes rounded out the scoring after Monai-Brophy was dragged down in front of the 22. Monai-Brophy’s conversion was good.
“I’m really proud of the guys. We took advantage of what they gave us today. We communicated really well. We had a lot of chemistry and we knew our surroundings,” said Schafer, 16. “I’m so happy to be out here with all these guys. This team is the most bonded team I’ve ever been on in my life. It’s just a big group. It was a lot of fun.”