SARFC ladies primed for playoffs

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Division one team hosts Sept. 17 semifinal at St. Albert Rugby Football Club

St. Albert’s scrum queens booked a home-field playoff date in their last match before the post-season party kicks off in the Edmonton Rugby Union.

The division one women also regained first place in Wednesday’s 43-5 beat-down of Crude/West at the St. Albert Rugby Football Club.

“We came out on top so it was a great way to end our regular game season,” said scrumhalf Emily Dewitt after the ruthless performance by the SARFC ladies raised their home record to 6-0. “It was a great team win. We played as hard as we could consistently throughout the entire game. We had some subs come in and they really showed their stuff out there 110 per cent. It was really good.”

The division leaders march into the Sept. 17 semifinals with authority at 9-3 and 10 bonus points.

The result between the Pirates (8-3, 12 BP) and Clan (8-3, eight BP) next weekend at the Pirates Rugby Club will determine if SARFC will finish first or second in the five-team table and whether it hosts the Clan or Crude/West (3-8, four BP).

The Pirates trail SARFC by two points and are four in front of the Clan after Wednesday’s 34-12 loss to the Clan at Airways Park.

The ERU final is Sept. 24 at Ellerslie Rugby Park.

SARFC is undefeated against Crude/West after sweeping the three-game series (108 points and 30 against) but is 1-2 against the Clan and the last two losses were scores of 59-12 July 23 and 57-13 Aug. 13 at Airways Park.

“I’d like to play these guys again just because the Clan is more of a physically hitting game so it’s harder on our bodies,” Dewitt said. “But either way we’re on our home pitch and it’s where we’ve shown the most so I’m just happy that because we won this game (the semifinal) is going to be on this field and that’s where we like to play.”

The first of Dewitt’s two tries was an enthusiastic effort in open space to break the ice in the 10th minute as SARFC rolled up a 29-0 advantage at halftime.

Brie Gray’s try in the corner in the 14th minute finished off an aggressive sequence of passing plays while grinding out the yards deep in Crude/West territory.

Kendall Dewitt, Emily’s twin sister, nailed the post on the conversion kick from a hefty distance.

Six minutes into the second quarter, Mckenzie Pusch – fresh off a stint with the U20 national team in the three-game series against England U20 at Trent College in Nottingham – boogied down the wing while out-distancing several defenders and Kendall converted the try.

Tremendous second effort by Cassie Peterson made it 22-0. A punishing tackle resulted in Crude/West turning the ball over outside its 22-metre line and on the counter-attack an alert pass by Emily while in the grasp of a defender was reeled in by Peterson in support of her teammate and pounded the pitch towards the try line. A desperation tackle attempt caused Peterson to lose her balance in front of the five-metre line but immediately jumped up and battled through to crack the try line with another defender frantically tugging at her jersey from behind.

Michelle Marler, the team captain and slippery fullback, weaved her way to the outside for a long-scoring run with four minutes left until the break and Kendall converted the score.

In the third quarter, Crude/West broke through the SARFC defensive wall with a try off a scrum deep in striking range of the try area.

A physically imposing defence complemented SARFC’s explosive offence charge as Crude/West struggled to gain ground for points, especially in the second half as the home squad racked up the tackles.

“Something that we’ve been really working on is pressing up our line on defence and we really showed that today. We came up as a team and we didn’t give them a chance to have any gaps or any plays of their own,” Emily said.

Tries seven minutes apart in the fourth quarter off splendid runs by MacKenzie Doughty and Emily wrapped up the team’s second win in a row and fourth in five matches. Emily kicked both conversions.

Doughty was too fast for Crude/West to track down after a dash by Gray past the halfway line.

Emily’s try had the legendary Old Boys on the SARFC balcony jumping off their stools in delight over her sassy chip-and-chase fake past the halfway line that spun the last defender around like a top for the breakaway score.

“My dad (Clint, a former SARFC player) taught me that. He said show the ball to one side and then skip your feet to the other side,” said Emily.

The high school rugby product of the Paul Kane Blues has been nothing short of sensational as a 17-year-old quarterbacking the team in the high-profile scrumhalf position. After the Blues ended the metro Edmonton season as division one finalists, Dewitt made her women’s debut June 11 as a winger in the 36-0 stoning of Crude/West and kicked three conversions. She was eventually moved to scrumhalf, where she excelled for the Blues, when Emily Oor left for school commitments in the United States.

“The girls are very welcoming. They never looked at me like I just came out of high school, they looked at me like we’re confident with me being one of the leaders on the team. It’s very nice to know your team has confidence in you so it gives you more confidence in yourself,” said Emily, who will celebrate her 18th birthday with Kendall next month. “The hardest thing was that I was trying not to be intimidated at the beginning by the older and more experienced (teammates) but their kindness really helped me.”

The transition from high school to the senior ranks has been relatively seamless for Emily, a gifted athlete who is also the second-leading scorer with 12 goals for the second-place division two Devils in the St. Albert Women’s Soccer League.

“The coaching from Ash (assistant coach Ashley Hanson) has really helped me with my kicking and my passing the ball out of the scrum so just having a coach that’s geared towards the halfback position. I actually have that coaching and more knowledge what I need to do on the field,” Emily said. “The people out here playing women’s rugby are here to win, they’re here to play and they’re here to be the best and you can tell on the field just by how hard the people are hitting, especially in the scrums. It’s a lot messier play where I have to be more controlling out there, like get into the rucks and push harder in the scrum. It’s a lot more physical and a lot more demanding on my point.”

SCRUM BALLS: The first loss for the SARFC U18 females was last weekend’s provincial final against Calgary Hornets Black.

The ERU champions were 6-0 (434 PF/37 PA) before going down to defeat 46-27 at Calgary Rugby Park. It was 24-22 for the Hornets at halftime.

SARFC was unable to battle through for the full 70 minutes with only 15 players. The Hornets dressed 26 and apparently were a combined Hornets Black (5-1) and Hornets Gold (4-2) team. The Black and Gold placed second and third, respectively, in the Calgary Rugby Union table in the regular season.

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Jeff Hansen

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