Ellerslie Rugby Park – Drop goals decided Wednesday’s U19 junior female final between St. Albert and Nor’Westers in the Edmonton Rugby Union.
The marathon kicking affair from the 22-metre line wrapped up after 18 rounds with the Nor’Westers prevailing 2-1 after the teams battled to a 33-33 draw in regulation time.
“It was a really tough ending for us. We really played unreal but they deserved it so good for them,” said eight-man Sydney De La Mare.
Her try with seven minutes remaining and Kendall Dewitt’s fourth conversion of the match pulled St. Albert even with the defending champions.
“We didn’t really expect much out of this game. We played the Nor’Westers at the beginning of the season (54-27 loss) and they were unreal so we didn’t really expect to get this close to be honest but I’m so proud of the girls and I’m so proud we did come this close,” said De La Mare, 17.
St. Albert finished 5-3 overall as the third playoff seed and the Nor’Westers were a perfect 8-0.
“It was a great year for us. Last year I think we finished at the bottom, we only had 14 girls, and this year to come up like that and play the best team, they’ve obviously been unreal for a few years in a row, was just a great experience for us,” De La Mare said.
The final went straight to drop goals to declare a winner. Each team made one kick in the opening round of five – Dewitt was successful on the first Paul Kane kick and the third Nor’Wester tied it up – and in the sudden-death format players were cycled through before a winner was declared.
“That was absolutely crazy. We were all shaking holding hands because most of us girls don’t practise dropkicking so that was extremely nerve-wracking for everyone. It was a nail bitter,” De La Mare said.
At halftime it was too close to call at 12 apiece.
“We started off good. We pounded it to them and they came right back on us and it just kind of went back and forth from there. At the end, we got a lucky try and it ended up a tie,” De La Mare said.
Mckenzie Pusch, a scoring machine for the Alberta division one women’s team in St. Albert, converted a set back play by her sister, Alexie, at standoff to break the ice early in the match.
The first of De La Mare’s two tries was a robust effort before halftime.
Pusch’s second score was about a 60-metre run for a try under the posts.
Emily Dewitt, the team’s scrumhalf, busted loose on a blind play and ran over two defenders before stiff-arming the fullback on the 50-metre scoring play.
Power moves by De La Mare off an eight-man pick ended with the Grade 12 Paul Kane High School student diving over the line.
“I got a little frustrated because the ball wasn’t getting to us. We were playing a lot of defence and when I got the chance I just wanted to pound through those girls and get over the line for my teammates,” said the MVP on the Paul Kane girls’ rugby team in 2015.
De La Mare recently made the U17 Canada long list of 60 females for a camp in October in Ontario to finalize a U18 touring side.
The U19 belle AA St. Albert Mission defenceman/centre ringette player will also compete with the Celtic Barbarians of Alberta, along with the Dewitt twins and Alexie Pusch, at the North Shore Rugby 7s tournament Sept. 12 to 13 in Vancouver.