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Clan stops SARFC women

St. Albert rugby team is 5-2 after 46-14 loss at Alpine field

By: Jeff Hansen

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jun 28, 2014 06:00 am

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  • LEADER OF TRHE PACK - Michelle Marler of the St. Albert Rugby Football Club breaks away from the Clan in Wednesday's match at Alpine field. The Clan won 46-14. It was 24-0 at halftime.
    LEADER OF TRHE PACK - Michelle Marler of the St. Albert Rugby Football Club breaks away from the Clan in Wednesday's match at Alpine field. The Clan won 46-14. It was 24-0 at halftime.
    TOPHER SEGUIN/St. Albert Gazette
  • BALL CHALLENGE - McKenzie Pusch of the St. Albert Rugby Football Club and Madeline Graham of the Clan battle for a loose ball in Wednesday's match at Alpine field. Pusch, a U19 junior, scored her fourth try in two games in the 46-14 loss in the Edmonton Rugby Union spring league seeding round.
    BALL CHALLENGE - McKenzie Pusch of the St. Albert Rugby Football Club and Madeline Graham of the Clan battle for a loose ball in Wednesday's match at Alpine field. Pusch, a U19 junior, scored her fourth try in two games in the 46-14 loss in the Edmonton Rugby Union spring league seeding round.
  • PURSUIT PLAY - Nicole Shaner of the Clan tracks down Grace Van Der Velden of the St. Albert Rugby Football Club in Wednesday's match at Alpine field. SARFC is 5-2 in the Edmonton Rugby Union spring league seeding round after the 46-14 loss to the undefeated Clan.
    PURSUIT PLAY - Nicole Shaner of the Clan tracks down Grace Van Der Velden of the St. Albert Rugby Football Club in Wednesday's match at Alpine field. SARFC is 5-2 in the Edmonton Rugby Union spring league seeding round after the 46-14 loss to the undefeated Clan.

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Lessons were learned at the School of Hard Knocks by the women’s rugby team at the St. Albert Rugby Football Club in Wednesday’s loss to the Clan.

A savvy Clan lineup swarmed a valiant SARFC side for eight tries and three conversions in the 46-14 showdown between two of the top three teams in the Edmonton Rugby Union spring league seeding round.

At halftime it was 24-0 at Alpine field.

“It was definitely a great learning experience for our team,” said SARFC eight-man Helen Jones. “Obviously it was a very tough and very physical game. It was a very quick game. They had a lot of very experienced players and a lot of very strong girls, forwards and backs, and it was very good work between their forwards and backs.”

The loss was only the second in seven matches for SARFC. The Clan has first place locked up at 7-0.

“I don’t think we were too over confident but we weren’t overly nervous either,” Jones said. “We knew it was going to be a very tough game and I think some of our players really stepped up to the mark and a lot of the girls really put their bodies on the line today.”

In the first half the Clan dominated time of possession as SARFC struggled advancing the ball.

The Clan opened the scoring in the 13th minute and led by 17 when Katelyn Moorhouse pulled off a slick kick and chase play for SARFC to gain possession past the halfway line as Megan Lauer streaked down the touchline but her pass in front of the five-metre line was picked off. After a scrum, penalty play and lineout ball in close range of the try area SARFC was penalized and the Clan reversed its field position to score its fourth try of the half in the 32nd minute.

Five minutes into the second half Janna Slevinsky – 2013/14 CIS first-team All-Canadian with the Acadia Axewomen and the 2009 recipient of the Shelaine Kozakovich Cup as the ERU junior women’s player of the year – busted loose from the halfway line for a try under the posts. The former Bellerose Bulldog was back home visiting with family and friends and was inserted into the starting 15 for the big game.

After captain Katie Davis kicked the conversion SARFC ramped up the pressure with a lengthy run by Michelle Marler into scoring range but despite a lineout ball at the five-metre line and then a penalty play the home team was unable to capitalize.

The Clan was eventually awarded the ball on a penalty and from deep in its end gradually moved forward to score in the 57th minute to make it 29-7.

Five minutes later U19 junior McKenzie Pusch scored her fourth try in two matches within a span of five days to finish off a robust charge into enemy territory. Davis nailed the conversion.

The Clan rebounded with three tries and one conversion during an eight-minute sequence to cap off the win.

“We took a lot of positives from that game and we’re leaving with our heads up,” Jones said. “When we got people running fast onto the ball we definitely showed what we’re capable of. There was some great decision making too.

“It was also great to see that fighting spirit right until the end. Everyone was giving it their all until the very last minute.”

The spring league’s nine-team round robin ends Wednesday for SARFC against the Lep/Tigers, 15-7 losers to the Clan. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Alpine field.

The LTs are 6-1 with five bonus points for 29 points, six more than SARFC at 5-2 with three bonus points for third place in the table.

Wednesday’s result sealed SARFC’s fate in the next round of the fixtures. Instead of a top-two finish for promotion into the Alberta first division for the second half of the season SARFC will compete in the ERU second division.

“We’re going to regroup tomorrow (at training) and focus on the positives that we’ve been working a lot on like getting people running faster onto the ball and more aggressively,” Jones said. “We definitely need to get working on our rucks and that’s something that let us down a little bit today.”

Despite the loss it’s been a banner season for the women’s program, which was on the verge of folding after massive lopsided losses and a dwindling player base in recent years.

“There is a little core of girls that kept the team together for the last couple of years and after coming off those first couple of wins it was just amazing for them. Credit to them for keeping things going. It’s well deserved,” said Jones, 33.

The Tipperary, Ireland product played for the Strathcona Druids two years ago after joining her husband, Johnny Moloney, an electrician and last year’s MVP on the SARFC premier men’s team. They welcomed into the world their first child, Connor William Moloney, on Sept. 25.

Jones has one cap (“That’s one more than my husband has.”) from a 2009 international test match against Scotland in Glasgow. She honed her skills on the pitch at the Highfield Rugby Football Club in Cork City.

“I’m a late arrival to the game,” Jones said. “Johnny actually followed me to Highland. I had to teach him everything he knows about rugby.”


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