October 30, 2012, OTTAWA (CIS) – The Guelph Gryphons put an end to a 13-year drought in 2011 when they claimed the second Monilex Trophy in school history thanks to a convincing 28-0 gold-medal win over St. Francis Xavier. If they want to repeat as CIS women’s rugby champions on Sunday, chances are they will have to go through the X-Women again, this time on their own turf.
The pools and schedule were announced earlier this week for the 2012 CIS tournament, which StFX is hosting for the first time in Antigonish, N.S.
The Gryphons (OUA champions) will battle in Pool A with the Alberta Pandas (Canada West champs) and Acadia Axewomen (AUS finalists) in the preliminary round, while the X-Women (AUS champs) will face the Concordia Stingers (RSEQ champs) and Queen’s Gaels (OUA finalists) in Pool B.
The competition kicks off on Thursday and concludes Sunday with the title match scheduled for 2 p.m. Atlantic Time. All nine games from the tourney will be webcast live on CIS-SIC.tv.
Guelph and StFX once again dominated in their conference this season.
Despite the loss to graduation of two-time CIS MVP Jacey Murphy following last year’s triumph, the Gryphons outscored their OUA opponents by a combined 579 to 14 in the regular season and playoffs en route to a 9-0 overall record. The 1998 and 2011 national champions were seriously tested by Queen’s however in the league final before escaping with a 10-6 win and their fifth straight conference title.
For the X-Women, there has been no such scare so far in 2012. StFX crushed its AUS rivals by a mindboggling total of 821-6 over 10 contests, including a 72-0 shutout over Acadia in the Atlantic final. They were as dominant in three exhibition matches against Pool B opponent Concordia, defeating the Stingers 56-5 and 55-14 in pre-season action and 51-3 during a tour of Quebec in early October.
The X-Women have claimed every conference banner since women’s rugby made its AUS debut in 1998. Crowned Monilex Trophy champions in 2006 and 2010, they have reached the CIS final each of the past five years.
Fifth-year centre Britt Benn has taken over from Murphy as Guelph’s leader and was named OUA Shiels Division player of the year after scoring a league-high 16 tries in six regular season games. StFX is led by fourth-year No. 8 Tyson Beukeboom – daughter of former NHLer Jeff – who was voted AUS MVP for the third straight season.
The Gryphons will compete against two very different teams in Pool A.
While Alberta is returning to the national tournament for the first time since 2008, the Pandas are the most decorated program in CIS women’s rugby history with five titles won in consecutive fashion from 1999 to 2003. Alberta kept a 6-0 overall mark in Canada West this fall en route to its first conference banner since 2005, including a 20-12 win over Calgary in the league final.
“Relief is the first feeling that comes to mind,” said Panda head coach Matt Parrish following the victory over Calgary. “Relief, followed by pride in what the girls accomplished out here today, and then lastly, the happiness that comes with victory. It was a hard fought match, I thought Calgary played very well, but our girls were a bit better, and I’m quite relieved, proud and happy with the win.”
Acadia is about to compete on the national stage for the first time. The Axewomen did well against the rest of the AUS field this fall on their way to a second place finish but they were no match for top-ranked StFX, losing 90-0 and 64-0 in the regular season before being blanked 72-0 in the conference final.
In Pool B, StFX will also face a team with significant CIS championship experience and an opponent still trying to make its mark at the national level.
The Stingers are representing the RSEQ for sixth time at the CIS tourney with their best result coming in 2010 when they took StFX to overtime in the Monilex Trophy final before dropping a heartbreaking 17-12 decision. This season, Concordia suffered its only loss in league play against Laval, a 27-22 setback at home on Oct. 12, but avenged that defeat in the Quebec championship game with a thrilling 35-34 win in enemy territory.
“We dominated for periods but Laval kept coming back. We dug deep. We played really well and I’m really happy,” said Concordia head coach Graeme McGravie, who saw super-freshman Bianca Farella score three tries in the RSEQ final. “Bianca scored two of her tries on quick strikes in the first five minutes of the second half and that really turned it for us.”
Queen’s made its CIS championship debut two years ago in Peterborough, Ont., and went 1-2 en route to a fifth-place finish. The Gaels showed what they were made of early in the season when they defeated Lethbridge and Calgary in a pre-season tour of Alberta. They had the most balanced attack in the OUA this fall with 50 tries coming from 18 different players.
Official championship website: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/wrugby/index