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    Categories: Rugby

The rugby season is over after three SARFC teams suffer semifinal losses

GRAPPLING - Justin (Bomber) Armitt of the St. Albert premier men's team wrestles for the ball in the Alberta Cup north semifinal Saturday against the Strathcona Druids at the St. Albert Rugby Football Club. The Druids knocked off the winner of the last three Labatt's Cup provincial championships by a score of 23-15.

Firsts floored

It’s the end of an era at the St. Albert Rugby Football Club.

A lengthy playoff run of nine consecutive trips to the Ken Ann Cup north final by the premier men’s team ended in Saturday’s 23-15 semifinal shocker against the Strathcona Druids in front of the largest crowd of the season at SARFC.

The last time SARFC was a no-show in the Ken Ann Cup was 2007 when there was only one senior men’s team at the club that year, the Lor-Ann Cup second division provincial champions.

The first 15 at SARFC also won the last three Labatt’s Cup provincial finals during of stretch of eight appearances in nine years at the premier championship that included the club’s first Labatt’s Cup triumph in 2010.

In the Alberta Cup premier table, SARFC (9-4) was fourth as the second highest-ranked north team and the Druids (6-7) were sixth as the third best out of five north reps in the 10-team division.

In league play, the Druids were victorious 25-17 in Sherwood Park and SARFC rebounded the next weekend with a decisive 60-10 decision on its home pitch.

The playoff tilt started with a SARFC try as Kyle Gilmour did most of the legwork to send Adam Bontus to the corner in the third minute. The conversion was no good.

The Druids answered with a try off the wing in the 36th minute.

The teams exchanged penalty kicks and George Harding’s successful boot knotted the count at eight before halftime.

On the second half kick-off, the Druids scored in a blink of an eye on a bing-bang play off a bouncing ball to lead by five.

The combination of SARFC penalties and a diligent defence by the Druids left hometown fans and players frustrated as time wound down.

Another penalty kick by the Druids made it 16-8.

SARFC closed the gap with a run by Matt Jarvis into the try area and Harding banged the conversion off the post and through the uprights with under 10 minutes remaining.

The Druids closed out the upset with a forward try off a five-metre scrum and the conversion was good.

The SARFC lineup for the semifinal was missing some key regulars.

Thirds thumped

The season ended sooner than expected for the first-place third division men’s team in the Edmonton Rugby Union.

The St. Albert Rugby Football Club hosted the Parkland Sharks in Saturday’s semifinal and the visitors posted a convincing 60-14 victory.

Parkland led 12-0 after the first quarter, 31-7 at halftime and 43-14 after three quarters.

It was 31-0 when captain Andrew (Kiwi) Marsden finished off a long run by SARFC after a Parkland lineout with a try under the post with nine minutes left until halftime.

Leading up the try, SARFC had a try waved off by the referee.

SARFC players and fans had major issues with the officiating as Parkland piled up the points.

In the third quarter and Parkland in command at 43-7, Johnny Moloney stretched his lanky frame far enough while falling towards the ground to slam the ball over the try line. Marsden kicked his second conversion of the match.

Some extra-curricular activity in the aftermath on a tackle by the touchline resulted in yellow cards to both teams as the officiating crew came under heavy criticism from the SARFC supporters.

The SARFC roster of players ranged in age from 17 to 50-year-old Eric Wynychuk and all but a few were third division regulars from start to finish this season.

Parkland, which had a second division ERU team this year that didn’t make the playoffs, fielded a bigger team physically which was similar to the side that ended SARFC ‘s five-game winning steak Aug. 11 by a score of 45-8.

SARFC was the top ERU team at 8-2 for an opening-round bye and the Sharks crushed the Druids 71-7 in the playoffs before knocking off the pennant winners for an overall mark of 8-4 entering the final this weekend.

Last year SARFC finished 2-9 after winning the ERU Visser Cup and Digby Dinnie Cup provincial final in 2015 while going 12-3 overall.

Women stopped

The road to the first Edmonton Rugby Union championship since 2014 for a women’s team at the St. Albert Rugby Football Club ended Saturday in Grande Prairie.

The first-place Sirens improved to 10-1 in the 51-17 win in the second division semifinal.

SARFC finished the season at 6-6.

In league play, SARFC lost 40-34 to the visiting Sirens on June 24.

The Sirens are the only women’s team in Grande Prairie and this year SARFC fielded two women’s teams for the first time in several seasons with players seeing action with both sides.

SARFC was 2-8-1 its inaugural Alberta premier campaign.

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