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St. Albert women destroy Druids

The St. Albert Blues put the boots to the Druids in women's rugby Wednesday. In the first tilt since last year's controversial semifinal overtime win by the Druids, the Blues ran roughshod over their second division rivals 67-24 at the St.

The St. Albert Blues put the boots to the Druids in women's rugby Wednesday.

In the first tilt since last year's controversial semifinal overtime win by the Druids, the Blues ran roughshod over their second division rivals 67-24 at the St. Albert Rugby Football Club.

"It makes it so sweet that we put such a stamp on it. We outscored them so overwhelming," said Alicia Sliwkanich, a punishing prop who busted loose for two tries. "The Druids are a respected and experienced team in the league and when the other clubs look at today's score, they're going to come to our field knowing it's going to be a battle. They're going to be scared about what we're going to throw at them."

The Blues overpowered the Druids with 11 tries and a steady Tanis Sawatzky kicked six converts.

"It was a great team effort all around. We had some forward tries. Our backs did what they always do, which is run around other teams. They're so fast, it's awesome to watch," Sliwkanich said.

The Blues opened the scoring with a converted try in the fourth minute. After taking a pass from outside the 22-metre line fullback Michelle Marler used her quick feet to gain open space on the left side along the touchline for points.

After the Druids evened the count in the 10th minute, the Blues pulled away with 24 unanswered points for a commanding 31-7 halftime lead.

"It's awesome we won," said eight-man Audrey Park, a newcomer from the 2009 Cowichan division one B.C. champions. "It was just a really good game. We knew it wasn't going to be easy but our momentum at the start really kept us going."

The second half wasn't a minute old when outside-centre Amanda Lalonde split the Druids' back line near the 22-metre stripe for the second of her three tries.

The Blues kept running up the score against the beleaguered Druids and led by 29 points with 20 minutes to play.

"In the second half they subbed in some of their premier players because they don't have enough right now to field two entire separate teams and just knowing that we can still outscore a team when they sub in their better players makes this win feel even better," Sliwkanich said of the Sherwood Park-based team that stacked its roster with premier players for last year's playoff against St. Albert.

Fab Four

Everybody on St. Albert's first 15 deserved game star honours, but the Fab Four of Lalonde, an explosive runner, impressive rookie Mickel Yuzdepski, veteran Marcia Davis and the elusive Marler deserved special recognition for their scoring exploits in the backs.

"Speed in the backs is a huge weapon for us. We have some girls with track and soccer and rugby [backgrounds] who have amazing speed. They never quit running," Sliwkanich said. "The size and experience in our forwards really benefits our backs. The forwards get the ball and the backs take it and score."

The Blues stepped up their physicality with an impressive show of force.

"It was definitely our most physical game so far," Park said. "We had a lot of good forward ball and really good offloads. Our backs also did a lot more rucking than they normally do and it was really good to have their support there."

Sliwkanich, 25, gave the forwards props for their dominating effort.

"We've been working a lot on controlling ball in contact. We won all of our own balls for the most part and turned over a lot of their balls. Scrums were steady and so were the rucks," said the third-year Alberta Pandas' rugby player.

While the Blues were hammering the Druids on the main pitch, St. Albert's second 15, the Reds (1-2), took it on the chin 65-10 against the Rockers (1-2). The Reds, a developmental team, and Blues had no trouble fielding full line-ups with subs for the twin bill. From the two teams combined there were 12 graduates of the Bellerose high school rugby program on display.

"It just shows the strength of St. Albert women's rugby this year to field 30 girls playing at the same time," said Sliwkanich, a sixth-year senior team veteran from Fort Saskatchewan. "St. Albert women have never been able to field two entirely separate teams before and there is no women's club in Edmonton this year that can field two entire separate teams on the same night."

Premier hopefuls

After bowing out in the Edmonton Rugby Union semifinal losses the last two years, St. Albert is poised to contend for its first provincial crown since back-to-back Alberta Rugby Union second division championships in 2004 and 2005.

Next year the game plan is to rejoin the premier ranks after a winless 2006 showing while still maintaining a second division squad.

"This is the year that's going to be our stepping stone so we can move up to premier," said Sliwkanich, who's 18-year-old sister and Team Alberta prospect, Tara, played for the Reds against the Rockers. "Since that year in premier we've had a lot of turnover in players and in the past few years we've had a lot of high school girls coming out and a lot of new players. Now that we have two sides in division two everybody is getting a lot of playing time and gaining experience. As we keep dominating all the other teams, it's going to put us in the right place to compete in premier next year."

Wednesday's rout by the Blues was their third win in three games to kick off the season. They've averaged 76 points per win while giving up a grand total of only 46 points.

"It was a more competitive game than our last two games. Our last game had uncontested scrums, " Parks said of the 103-0 shellacking of the visiting Fort McMurray Knights last Saturday, the highest-scoring game ever by a St. Albert women's team.

Park, 20, has been a pleasant surprise on the pitch. The Chemainus, B.C. resident is spending the summer in St. Albert with her boyfriend, local product Mike Stapleford. She has provincial team experience at the Rugby Canada National Championships Festival and has tried out for U19 Canada.

"I like it here. It's a lot quicker season with one or two games a week and practices as well. It's really condensed. You get a lot more fitness in because you're playing way more," said Park, a starter at the Cowichan Rugby Football Club since her U17 days. "The fields are a lot harder here and it's a lot different style of play, but it's pretty good. It's lots of fun."

The next match for the Blues is June 10 against the Lep/Tigers (2-1). Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Ellerslie Rugby Park.

The Reds are in action this Wednesday at home against the Druids (1-2) at 7 p.m.

SCRUM BALLS: Reports out of Toronto gave Lalonde and prop Stacie Becker high marks for their performance at the recent U20 Canada camp. The national team roster has yet to be finalized for the Nations Cup in August.

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