PETERBOROUGH, Ont. (CIS) – The Guelph Gryphons captured the second Monilex trophy in program history Sunday afternoon thanks to a convincing 28-0 win over defending champion St. Francis Xavier in the gold-medal final of the CIS women’s rugby tournament in front of over 1,500 fans at Trent University’s Justin Chiu Stadium.
The triumph marks the end of a frustrating CIS championship drought for Guelph. After claiming the inaugural Monilex trophy back in 1998 with a 15-10 defeat of McMaster, the Gryphons returned to the national final twice, losing 20-3 to Alberta in 1999 and 10-5 to StFX in 2006. They also racked up five bronze medals over the years, including third-place finishes each of the past four seasons.
“This win is a result of 365 days of hard work and I’m very proud of everything this team did to get to this point. After losing to X and not having a chance at gold last year there was no way we were going down without a fight,” said Guelph head coach Collette McAuley, whose team dropped a heart-breaking 18-17 decision to StFX in the preliminary round in 2010.
The Gyphons completed a remarkable 2011 campaign that saw them outscore their OUA opponents 598-20 in eight regular season and playoff games, before defeating McMaster 53-19 and Laval 38-3 in the preliminary round of the CIS tourney.
“Everything we did this season lead to this win,” added McAuley. “We had several players come back for their final year to play for gold and I know this means so much to those veterans and everyone else involved with this team.”
For their part, the X-Women were playing in a fourth consecutive national title match and their fifth overall. The 14-time Atlantic conference champions claimed the banner CIS in 2006 with a 10-5 gold-medal win over Guelph and a year ago with a 17-12 overtime victory over Concordia. They lost to Lethbridge in back-to-back championship games in 2008 (29-15) and 2009 (20-3).
“I give credit to Guelph, they played very well,” commented StFX head coach Mike Cavanagh. “I thought at halftime just being down 7-0 that we were in this game. We were at their goal line early in the second half and I think if we had of been able to score on that opportunity it would have been a different game. Full credit goes to Guelph, they held their goal line and came back, they were well equipped and are a good team.”
Mackenzie Higgs of Aurora, Ont., Samantha Eyles of Goderich, Ont., Brittany Sammut of Port Colbourne, Ont., and Britt Benn of Napanee, Ont., each scored a try for Guelph in the gold-medal win, with Stephanie Tibelius of Ottawa converting all four scores.
The Gryphons jumped to an early 7-0 lead when Higgs, a second-year fly-half, used a burst of speed to get around the defenders and reach the try line only three minutes in.
The score remained 7-0 for the next 63 minutes.
After the OUA champs were awarded a penalty inside the StFX five-metre line, Guelph native Marielle Lehoux took a quick tap-and-go and offloaded to Eyles, who barrelled her way through the defence for the try.
Sammut all but put the game away in the 72nd minute and Benn dashed any hopes of a StFX comeback at the 77-minute mark with an exciting 50-metre run that saw her break several tackles before finding goal.
As time wound down, the excitement could be seen on the faces of the Guelph players, coaches and fans alike. It was when the Gryphon’s Tibelius kicked the ball in to touch and the official blew the whistle signalling the end of the game that the celebration on the field erupted.
Guelph native Morganne Linthwaite of the Gryphons was named championship MVP and was accompanied on the all-tournament team by teammates Benn, Mary-Jane Kirby of Brampton, Ont., Caitlin Beaton of Clavering, Ont., as well as reigning two-time CIS player of the year Jacey Murphy of Alliston, Ont.
Tyson Beukeboom of Uxbridge, Ont., Sara Kalijuvee of Ajax, Ont., and Lisa Gauthier of St. Bernadin, Ont., received the same honour for StFX.
The X-Women will host the 2012 CIS championship in Antigonish, N.S.
Championship MVP: Morganne Linthwaite, Guelph
R.W. Pugh Fair Play award: Laval Rouge et Or
Mary-Jane Kirby (Brampton, Ont.), Guelph
Morganne Linthwaite (Guelph, Ont.), Guelph
Caitlin Beaton (Clavering, Ont.), Guelph
Jacey Murphy (Alliston, Ont.), Guelph
Britt Benn (Napanee, Ont.), Guelph
Tyson Beukeboom (Uxbridge, Ont.), StFX
Sara Kalijuvee (Ajax, Ont.), StFX
Lisa Gauthier (St. Bernadin, Ont.), StFX
Marie-Pier Pinault-Reid (Quebec City, Que.), Laval
Charlotte Vallieres-Villeneuve (Quebec City, Que.), Laval
Karen Paquin (Quebec City, Que.), Laval
Brandi Van Eeuwen (Duncan, Alta.), Lethbridge
Kayla Moleschi (Williams Lake, Alta.), Lethbridge
Natasha Turner (Rockcliffe, Ont.), McMaster
Ashley Burton (Peterborough, Ont.), Trent