November 2, 2012, ANTIGONISH, N.S. (CIS) – The Canada West champion Alberta Pandas won a close 28-19 game over the AUS finalist Acadia Axewomen in their first round robin game at the CIS women’s rugby championship, presented by the Town of Antigonish, Friday morning at Oland Stadium.
With the loss, the Axewomen (0-2) are eliminated from medal contention and head to the fifth-place game on Sunday at 10 a.m. Atlantic Time. This is Acadia’s first-ever appearance at the CIS tournament.
The Pandas (1-0) will meet the reigning national champion Guelph Gyphons (1-0) Saturday at 10:30 a.m. for first place in pool A and a berth in Sunday’s Monilex Trophy final at 1 p.m..
Veteran fifth-year hooker Carmen Hobbs from Edmonton was named the player of the game for Alberta and said the Pandas were happy with the win.
“We had a few cobwebs to work out being our first game at nationals,” said the Canada West all-star. “I am one of only three girls who went to nationals when Lethbridge hosted four years ago. We’ve got a little bit to prove, but I think we’ve worked it out now and we’re ready to go.”
Hobbs added team work was the key to the win. “We tried to retain the ball as much as we could, and looked to each other for support, then we ended getting over the try line a few times.”
Both teams played an exciting game, exchanging scoring plays throughout the entire 70 minutes.
The Axewomen came out intent to show their worth, exerting pressure on the Pandas in the opening three minutes. That pressure resulted in a try scored in the third minute by AUS all-star lock Allison Jordan from Fall River, N.S. Nicole Kelly of Morell, P.E.I., converted on the play to give the Axewomen an early 7-0 lead.
Alberta opened the game with several penalty infractions called against them, and the play was in the Pandas zone for the majority of the first ten minutes. The Canada West champs settled in and Hobbs came up with a big play, blocking a kick attempted by Acadia’s Emilie Chiasson to boot the ball out of the try zone. Hobbs was able to jump on the ball for a try in the 16th minute.
The score went unconverted and the Axewomen held onto a 7-5 lead. The Pandas flipped that lead to 10-7 in the 24th minute when lock Louise Chavarie of Gaspe, Que., lumbered across the try line to score the second try for the Pandas.
With seven minutes left in the first half, Axewomen winger Nicole Kelly attempted a penalty goal kick which would have tied the game, but the ball sailed just wide of the upright and the 10-7 score held through to half-time.
The second period opened up with Pandas back row player Amy Speers receiving a yellow card for a dangerous tackle, leaving Alberta down a player while she served out the seven minutes in the sin bin.
The Axewomen were unable to capitalize with the extra player and it was the Pandas who struck first in the half as Strathmore, Alta., native Elizabeth Steele scored a try in the 41st minute. Teanna Chase of Sherwood Park, Alta., converted the score to give Alberta a 17-7 lead.
Acadia fought right back though and scored their own try in the 44th minute as AUS all-star Emilie Chiasson of Ottawa broke through to cross the try line. Kelly converted to pull the Axewomen to within three points at 17-14.
Four minutes later, Chase increased the Alberta lead to 20-14 after kicking a penalty goal, but the flip-flop scoring continued in the second half as AUS rookie of the year Maddie MacKenzie from Peterborough, Ont., broke down the sideline to score a try for the Axewomen. A missed conversion attempt by Kelly left Acadia one point short, at 20-19.
Chase was able to cushion the Pandas lead to 23-19 with a penalty goal kick in the 53rd minute.
MacKenzie had an exciting play for the Axewomen with six minutes left in regulation as she broke through the Pandas tacklers and streaked down the field on an 80-yard run, only to be taken down by the one Alberta tackler left down field. Despite the gain in field position, Acadia was unable to take advantage and score.
Pandas centre Maya Hiller of Edmonton sealed the win with a try scored in the 66th minute.
MacKenzie received player-of-the-game honours for Acadia and despite the loss said her team was happy with their performance.
“Yesterday we put up a good fight against Guelph, but today the tight score really shows that we can put up points against the top teams in the country, it shows we can compete with them.”
MacKenzie continued, “We really did work as a team, it’s never an individual effort. We had some great off-loads, our forwards rucked really well against them, we won a lot of balls, had a lot of good penalty chances. We all played together and we all played great.”
Hobbs was quick to credit MacKenzie and the Axewomen, commenting that Acadia presented a strong challenge. “They were strong. They had some great runners on their team, and Maddie (MacKenzie) on the wing definitely gave us a run for our money a couple of times. They were definitely a strong team, a great representative of Nova Scotia for sure.”
ALB 7-21: 28
ACA 10-9: 19
ACA – Allison Jordan try (Nicole Kelly convert), 3rd minute
ALB – Carmen Hobbs try, 16th
ALB – Louise Chavarie try, 24th
ALB – Elizabeth Steele try (Teanna Chase convert), 41st
ACA – Emelie Chiasson try (Nicole Kelly convert), 44th
ALB – Teanna Chase penalty goal, 47th
ACA – Maddie MacKenzie try, 48th
ALB – Teanna Chase penalty goal, 53rd
ALB – Maya Hiller try, 66th
Players of the game
ALB: Carmen Hobbs (Edmonton, Alb.)
ACA: Maddie MacKenzie (Peterborough, Ont.)