November 3, 2012, ANTIGONISH, N.S. (CIS) – Britt Benn, the CIS player of the year from Napanee, Ont., scored two tries in the final 15 minutes of the game as the reigning national champion Guelph Gryphons secured a spot in the gold-medal final thanks to a come-from-behind 17-10 win over the Alberta Pandas in the last match of pool A at the CIS women’s rugby championship, Saturday morning at Oland Stadium.
The Gryphons, who will compete for CIS gold for the fifth time in school history Sunday at 2 p.m. Atlantic Time, will try to capture their third Monilex Trophy to go with triumphs a year ago (28-0 win vs. StFX) and 1998 (15-10 vs. McMaster).
Guelph (2-0) awaits the winner of the final pool B contest between StFX (1-0) and Concordia (1-0) today at 1:30 p.m. AT. Alberta (1-1) will face the loser of StFX-Concordia for CIS bronze Sunday at noon.
Benn’s first try with 15 minutes remaining in regulation, followed by a conversion from Stephanie Tibelius of Ottawa, tied the game at 10 apiece. Then the four-time CIS all-Canadian made a dramatic 70-yard run down the sideline, breaking at least two tackles along the way to run in the game-winning try with two minutes on the clock.
Teammate and fellow all-Canadian Caitlin Beaton, a lock from Clavering, Ont., received player-of-the-game honours for the Gryphons and after the game commented, “It was awesome, it was so exciting to face off against a team that really challenges you and us challenging them right back. Those are the games you remember the most.”
Beaton says Benn’s last minute try gave the team a huge lift. “She is always a player on the team that pulls and makes something out of nothing and we love her for that. With those types of runs and tries she just uplifts the rest of the team.”
Beaton commented that the team’s intensity was big factor in rebounding in the second half. “We weren’t necessarily making wrong decisions in the first half, they were coming at us strong and we were running at them, but it was like a head on head and no one was really moving forward.”
“Then we decided we really needed to switch it on. Sometimes you’re just not right there at the beginning but you go forward and you find what you need to do to win.”
Guelph’s pressure early in the game resulted in a penalty goal from Tibelius for an early 3-0 lead after six minutes of play.
After a few possession exchanges, the Pandas were pushing for their first score and fourth-year lock Steffany Hoffman was credited with a try as the Pandas’ scrum brought the ball across the try line in the 15th minute. Teanna Chase of Sherwood Park, Alta., was short in the conversion attempt but Alberta took a 5-3 lead.
The teams engaged in a physical battle for the remainder of the opening half and both turned over the ball several times. The Pandas controlled possession for the final five minutes of the period and were on the doorstep of scoring but were unable to punch through. The 5-3 score held after 35 minutes of play.
The second frame saw the Canada West champions carry over their pressure and ball possession from the first half. Red Deer, Alta., native Paige Farries had a 25-yard run that helped set up favorable field possession for the Pandas, resulting in their second try of the game in the 46th minute.
After a couple scrums, the Pandas were able to offload the ball to centre Jennifer Cousineau from Coquitlam, B.C., for the major score. The unconverted try gave Alberta a 10-3 lead.
Pandas back row player Miranda Monty of Edmonton received a yellow card with 15 minutes left and the OUA champion Gryphons took advantage of the extra attacker right away, as Benn scored her first try in the 55th minute.
All-Canadian fullback and Guelph native Caitlin McNally made a nice play, breaking a couple Alberta tackles and finding a seam, then the ball was passed across, eventually finding Benn who made the score. With an ensuing conversion from Tibelius, the Gryhpons tied the match at 10-10.
The stage was then set for Benn’s dramatic game-winning try, as she brought the Guelph fans to their feet with her long sprint down the sideline. Tibelius converted the score to give the Gryphons the 17-10 win.
Despite the loss, the Pandas played a tough game and head coach Matt Parrish was quick to give his players credit, commenting, “I am really proud of them of how hard they worked and really proud of how they stuck to the game plan and shut Guelph down, we just couldn’t quite get there in the end.”
“Part of the game plan was to try to frustrate them and then take our chances when we got them. We had a couple of chances right at the end there, but they worked hard and they were tired. That’s all I can ask for is that their effort was there.”