SARFC women kick butt
Two wins to start season is one more than last year's total in women's rugby
Saturday, May 17, 2014 06:00 am
Nor’Westers Park – It’s looking like 2009 again for the women’s team at the St. Albert Rugby Football Club.
Five years ago the SARFC second division Blues finished 13-1 as the triple-crown winners of the Edmonton Rugby Union pennant and playoff cup and Alberta Rugby Union championship.
After the glory days of the women’s program, SARFC teams struggled through campaigns of lopsided losses and a lack of players.
But the turnaround towards a successful season is underway with two victories to kick off the ERU spring league fixtures.
“It’s been perfect for us so far,” said standoff Katie Davis, who scored two tries and kicked two conversions in Wednesday’s hard-fought 19-17 triumph against Crude/West. “It shows us that no matter how big a slump you get into, with hard work and dedication – which we’ve seen this year – we can do anything and go anywhere.”
Last year in the spring league the ladies were outscored 257-12 in five losses and their 1-7 second division record included 67 points scored and 352 against. A handful of 20-0 defaulted matches were included in the overall loss totals.
“It was very tough. It’s hard to stay encouraged when you’ve only got 12 girls and you’re battling injuries and things like that,” said Davis, the recipient of the team’s MVP award in 2013. “But one thing about all the girls is we’ll never give up. Even if we’re down it doesn’t matter, we’re never going to give up. Even if we’ve got 10 players we’re out on the field and fighting until the very end.”
SARFC dressed a starting 15 and four reserves against a larger Crude/West (1-1) lineup of players.
“It was a little bit different because we were going up against a full squad and in our last game they didn’t have a full squad,” said Davis of the 67-0 rout of the Rockers in the season opener. “This game showed us what we’re in for definitely. They’ve got a lot more fitness (than the Rockers) and they had great forwards and great backs. They were able to spin it out but we were able to adjust to that.”
SARFC going rolling offensive in the opening minutes as Megan Lauer scored with a burst along the touchline to finish off a series of passing plays. A slick move by Helen Jones, who is capped internationally with Ireland, was a key play in the drive for points.
“As soon as we got that first score it got us to keep pushing forward,” Davis said. “Not only did it start us off, but it made us know that we’re competitive against any team.”
Crude/West responded in a hurry with a dash under the posts during a rare SARFC defensive breakdown. The conversion was good to lead by two.
The joint team of Leduc Crude and Nor’Westers kept attacking but clutch tackling by fullback Michelle Marler stopped a couple of dangerous runs.
Crude/West eventually grinded out a try with 15 minutes left until halftime.
Three minutes later Davis slid through the defence after reeling in the ball around the 22-metre line. The try capped off a sequence of plays highlighted by Marler’s gallop past the halfway line.
Marler, an explosive back who lit up the Rockers for four tries, showed flashes of her game-breaking speed against Crude/West.
Davis converted her own try to knot the score.
With momentum on its side SARFC pushed for more points before the break. A quick penalty play by Davis in front of the posts put the visitors back on top. Her conversion with four minutes remaining made it 19-12.
“We dug our heels in,” Davis said of the team’s first-half performance. “We had kind of a rough start at the beginning but we realized what we had to adjust and that’s what we did to come back.”
SARFC tightened up defensively during a spirited second half of fast pace and physical action. Crude/West advanced the ball several times into scoring range but a combination of penalties and stout tackling kept SARFC’s lead intact.
With time winding down Davis almost broke free on a quick penalty play in the Crude/West zone.
On the last play of the match – after a swarming tackle by SARFC stopped the ball carrier in her tracks along the touchline – Crude/West stole a lineout ball at the five-metre line and swung it to the right for a try. On the conversion attempt from a hefty distance to tie the match, the ball fell short of the posts.
“We just pushed with them, came up hard and didn’t give them an inch,” Davis said of the team’s stalwart defensive effort in the second half.
To put the win in perspective SARFC was 0-3 against Crude/West last year by margins of 67-0, 93-12 and 61-0.
“It just shows all the hard work we’ve put in,” Davis said. “We’ve got a great group of girls. We’ve got some new girls too and we’re starting to come together.”
Sabrina Kelly, a standout two-sport athlete in rugby and wrestling during her University of Alberta career, and the feisty Lauer, an elite level weightlifter, are quality forwards who have rejoined the team.
The addition of Jones, an eight-man who played for the Strathcona Druids two years ago and is married to Johnny Moloney, the SARFC premier men’s MVP in 2013, is another major coup for the women’s program.
“It helps when you bring people together who have that experience of playing at different levels. It helps the new players for sure,” said Davis, 23.
SARFC is back on the pitch next Saturday against the Grande Prairie Sirens at 2 p.m. at Alpine field.