Juniors pack big punch

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St. Albert U18 women's rugby team is beating up teams with skill, speed and strength

The U18 women are kicking butt and taking names on their path of destruction to the provincial final.

The second 100-plus point performance by the junior juggernauts at the St. Albert Rugby Football Club during their undefeated run in league play was Wednesday’s rout of the Parkland Sharks.

The overwhelming 102-0 victory marked the third shutout by the SARFC juniors while outscoring the opposition by the astonishing margin of 393-15 during their 5-0 run into the Edmonton Rugby Union playoffs.

“It was a typical game for us,” said outside-centre Brittany Siewert after scoring one of the team’s 16 tries on the SARFC premier pitch.

The juniors will scrum down in Monday’s semifinal against the Sharks (1-4) after the Strathcona Druids (2-2) withdrew from the playoffs. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at SARFC.

The winner plays the Lep/Tigers (4-1) or Nor’Westers (2-2) in the Aug. 22 final at Ellerslie Rugby Park and the ERU champion battles the Calgary Rugby Union rep Aug. 27 in Calgary.

“It would be cool to try and challenge other competitive teams that are doing the same thing as us,” Siewert said of the provincial showdown.

The only teams to put points on the board against the juniors are the Nor’Westers – last year’s U19 ERU and provincial champions – 36-10 July 11 and the Lep/Tigers, 67-5 July 18.

The most lopsided win was 123-0 against the Clan (0-5) July 4 to start the U18 fixtures.

“It’s crazy,” Siewert said of the blowout results. “I wouldn’t have expected such a big gap.”

A good chunk of the roster consists of returning players from last year’s U19 ERU final, as drop goals from the 22-metre line decided the outcome after SARFC and Nor’Westers battled to a 33-33 draw in regulation time. The Nor’Westers prevailed 2-1 after 18 rounds.

Several players have also made significant contributions to the first-place SARFC first division team in the ERU after the high school season ended.

The main core is a tight-knit group with experience with the Edmonton Gold Academy, provincial rep teams at the 15s and 7s levels and even internationally, with Sydney De La Mare on the Canada U18 team that toured England in April.

“We’ve all played on numerous teams together. We also have players who have played on the same high school team (Bellerose Bulldogs or Paul Kane Blues). For some of us we’ve played three years together (in high school),” said Siewert, 18.

The Grade 12 standout for the Bulldogs noticed the calibre of play is more advanced in junior than in high school.

“There is a little bit more clean techniques,” she said. “But we do tend to panic a little like you would see in high school.”

The quantum leap into the senior ranks with the SARFC first division has benefited several juniors like Siewert.

“It’s definitely been more of a challenge,” said the winger/inside-centre for the SARFC women. “My high school coach taught me everything I knew up to this point and now it’s more technique and little tidbits that you need to do a little bit differently and that’s really important. It’s also much more professionally you would say so it’s a much different game.”

The future is bright for the SARFC women’s program with coaches Byron Elliott of the first division team and Dave Pusch of the U18 juniors building upon the numbers out of high school. Training sessions for both teams include joint practices.

The juniors looked like a first division team while rolling over the Sharks. De La Mare, a powerhouse eight-man, opened the scoring in the seventh minute with the first of her five tries, including three in the first half as SARFC tacked up 45 points.

Payton McNeil’s second try and Alexie Pusch’s sixth conversion ended the carnage.

Pusch and De La Mare recently made U18 Prairie Wolf Pack for the Canadian Rugby Championship, Aug. 15 to 21 in Toronto, and McNeil is a non-travelling reserve.

Amelie Gautier and Georgia Daykin also recorded two tries apiece and Pusch, Mackenzie Hamm, Naomi Godsmark and Kendall Dewitt crossed the try line once.

Dewitt also converted four tries and De La Mare also kicked a conversion.

Hamm, a U15 call-up for the juniors, was also selected to U16 Alberta, along with Avery Jeffery and Kiana Krueger from SARFC, for the National Festival in Toronto.

As for the SARFC boys, Kyle Dolph is on U16 Alberta for nationals and Ben Miller is a non-travelling reserve.

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About Author

Jeff Hansen

Jeff Hansen joined the St. Albert Gazette in 1991. He writes about sports, athletes and teams from St. Albert and area.