Michel Belanger

PETERBOROUGH, Ont. (CIS) – The Laval Rouge et Or women’s rugby team claimed the first national medal in the program’s young history on Sunday afternoon with a 29-0 shutout over the Lethbridge Pronghorns in the third-place match of the CIS championship, at Justin Chiu Stadium.

The Rouge et Or, who made their CIS debut in 2005, had placed sixth (2006) and fourth (2008) in two previous appearances at the national tournament. In the preliminary round of the 2011 tourney, the RSEQ champions beat McMaster 24-10 before dropping a 38-3 decision to Guelph to finish second in pool B.

The Pronghorns, winners of three straight Monilex trophies from 2007 to 2009, finish fourth in the country for the second year in a row. The Canada West champions ended round-robin action in second place in group A after a 35-0 win over host Trent and a 20-5 loss to StFX.

Trois-Rivières, Que., native Claudiane Renaud tallied a game-high nine points for Laval in the bronze-medal match on a penalty goal and a trio of converts, while Oniente K. Laflamme of Lasarre, Que., and Dominique Laliberté-Martineau, Karen Paquin and Charlotte Vallières-Villeneuve, all from Quebec City, scored a try apiece.

Following 16 minutes of scoreless action, the Rouge et Or exploded for three tries – two of them converted – in eight minutes to take a comfortable 19-0 lead into the halftime break.

“It took a while to get started today, but once we found out the key to the game our girls took control,” said Laval head coach Bill McNeil. “The girls were opportunistic on turnovers and I have to commend our centres for playing a hell of a game today.”

Though disappointed with the result, Lethbridge sideline boss Neil Langevin was quick to give credit to the Laval team.

“I have to congratulate Laval on their win,” said Langevin. “They played a strong game and pressured well in all aspects of the game. We didn’t have much continuity on our set pieces today and that had a lot to do with their pressure.”

Laval looked to be under siege in the early moments of the contest, but that all turned around at the 17-minute mark when Laflamme, a speedy fifth-year wing, went 15 metres down the sideline for the unconverted try.

The Rouge et Or continued to gain ground in big chunks. On their second score, Paquin, a CIS all-Canadian this season, ran 40 metres before she offloaded the ball to Laliberté-Martineau, who broke two tackles as she took the ball the final 25 metres to pick up the converted try.

Another long run by Paquin rounded out the eight-minute offensive outburst. Paquin found herself with the ball in traffic and began a run toward the sideline. She eluded several tacklers, completely changed direction and accelerated on 30 metres through the defence for the score. The convert by Renaud made it 19-0 heading into the break.

The second half opened with the Pronghorns applying pressure and hoping to get back into the contest. Thanks to strong runs by all-Canadians Kelsey Willoughby of Lethbridge and freshman Kayla Moleschi of Williams Lake, Alta., the Canada West champs had their rivals on their heels, but weren’t able to put points on the board.

Vallières-Villeneuve, also named to the CIS all-star team this fall, dashed any hopes of a Lethbridge comeback with a converted try in the 60th minute. Following a 40-metre run by Paquin which transitioned to a maul, the ball was swung out wide to Vallières-Villeneuve, who scampered 30 metres for the score.

Renaud added a penalty goal in the 68th minute to cap the scoring.