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    Categories: Rugby

SARFC women’s rugby team carries winning playoff performance into Grande Prairie for Saturday’s second division semifinal

FLY BALL - The ball sails past Haley Hoffman, left, of St. Albert and her counterpart on the Rockers during a lineout in Saturday's second division women's playoff match at the St. Albert Rugby Football Club. Maddie Doyle, left, and Ashley McConkey are the lifters for Hoffman on the play. St. Albert (6-5) won 44-17 and will travel to play the first-place Grande Prairie Sirens (9-1) in Saturday's semifinal at 3 p.m. The winner advances to the Edmonton Rugby Union final next Saturday at 12:45 p.m. at Ellerslie Rugby Park.

The second division women’s rugby team is bringing it to Grande Prairie, specifically the second half from Saturday’s playoff success.

During the 40 minutes of excellence, the St. Albert squad barred the Rockers from entering the try area while piling up four tries and three conversions to win by 27 points for the semifinal date with the first-place Sirens.

“We need to carry our second half with us from here on up. That’s how we need to play,” said Marcia Davis, a winger who ripped it up after halftime with three tries in the 44-17 outcome at the St. Albert Rugby Football Club.

“We need to be quick, we need to be sharp, we need to make sure that we’re expecting the ball even if it’s not coming to us and we need to make sure that were capitalizing on the gaps and really work at bringing the stuff that we take in practice and using it in the game because that was a really big thing that helped us today in the second half, utilizing things that we’ve done in practice throughout last week.”

Saturday’s kick-off is 3 p.m. in Grande Prairie and the winner lines up against the Lep/Tigers (8-2) or Leduc Crude (9-2) in the Edmonton Rugby Union final next Saturday at 12:45 p.m. at Ellerslie Rugby Park.

The Sirens held the upper hand in their last match with SARFC as the visitors, 40-34 June 24, while going 9-1 for the first-round bye.

SARFC is 6-5 and the lineup against the Rockers included players from the Alberta premier league team that finished 2-8-1 in its inaugural season as SARFC fielded two women’s teams for the first time in several years.

“The potential is there,” said Davis, who has ties with the last SARFC championship women’s team in 2014 that rallied to knock off the Sirens 36-22 in the second division ERU final at Grande Prairie and defeated the Saints 29-12 in Calgary for the provincial cup to finish 11-4.

“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished today and this season,” Davis added. “It’s very exciting. The women’s program has come a long way and I’m very proud. I’ve been playing on the team since I was 16 so I’ve been at the cub for a really long time and it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come together. We have a lot of new people this year and it’s amazing to see how far they’ve come throughout this year. Some people have never played rugby or have never played with us together so we’ve grown quite a bit and we’re doing an amazing job thus far.”

SARFC gradually pulled together against the Rockers after trailing 10-3 in the first quarter to post leads of 18-17 at halftime and 25-17 after three quarters.

“The second half we just tightened it up a bit. The first half we weren’t as committed as we needed to be. By the second half we were really in there, we were really trying to capitalize on the gaps that we were seeing and we were also making sure to get it out quickly because in the first half it was a lot of forward balls and dropping the balls, things like that, and we just weren’t getting our hands in there but by the second half we realized we needed to pick it up and play our game. We need to play SARFC rugby and that’s what got us the win,” Davis said.

A penalty kick by standoff Kendall Dewitt from outside the 22-metre line put SARFC on the board in the 13th minute after the Rockers opened the scoring with a push-over try.

Before the quarter ended, the Rockers turned a five-metre scrum into a try to lead by seven.

The second quarter started off with a try by fullback Emily Dewitt off a scrum in scoring range and the Rockers replied with a converted try.

SARFC closed out the first half with the first of two tries by winger Mackenzie Doughty and 11 minutes later a long run by Kendall Dewitt set-up the go-ahead points on a team try.

Five minutes into the third quarter, Davis capped off a slick passing sequence with Kolby Krueger and Kiera Arndt, a pair of centres, with an enthusiastic run and Kendall Dewitt’s conversion made it 25-17.

“It was a full whole back line that got the try. I might have scored the try but it wouldn’t have been without the other two centres who were with me, Kiera and Kolby. Kiera literally drew them in so that I could just get the pass and go. They were really good at drawing people out today,” Davis said.

SARFC also buckled down defensively after halftime, highlighted by a staunch goal-line stand and Kendall Dewitt’s timely clearance kick as the quarter wound down.

The last quarter featured a corner try by Davis, with Kruger earning a big assist on the play, Emily Dewitt’s tackle-saving try from behind on a breakaway runner, another lengthy dash for points by Doughty, Davis completed her hat-trick performance by barreling past a defender with a show of force in front of the half-way line en route to the try area and Kendall Dewitt split the uprights on the last two conversion attempts to wrap up the offensive onslaught.

“We were making sure everyone was touching the ball and that was making it really easy. We weren’t relying on one person. We were playing as a team which really brings it together and makes it a lot easier and funnier for everyone,” said Davis, a 33-year-old lawyer and high school rugby product of the Paul Kane Blues.

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