November 4, 2012, ANTIGONISH, N.S. (CIS) – In their first appearance at the national tournament since 2008, the Alberta Pandas claimed the bronze medal thanks to a 34-15 win over the Concordia Stingers at the CIS women’s rugby championship, presented by the Town of Antigonish, Sunday afternoon at StFX Oland Stadium.
It marks the first podium finish at the CIS tourney for the Canada West champion Pandas since a silver medal in 2005. Alberta holds the all-time record of five CIS titles but hasn’t captured the Monilex Trophy since 2003.
After Concordia came back to within two points, at 17-15, with just over 20 minutes left in the game, Alberta finished the contest with 17 unanswered points en route to the podium.
Pandas head coach Matt Parrish was happy with the performance
“It is always an accomplishment to get out of Canada West and get to nationals. Once we did that, we obviously wanted to come here and win something. We fell a bit short yesterday, but obviously I am extremely proud of the girls to rebound back.”
The teams exchanged penalty goals early on. Alberta’s Teanna Chase from Sherwood Park, Alta., kicked opened the scoring in the second minute, then Stingers fifth-year senior fly half Jackie Tittley of Kirkland, Que., replied four minutes later to tie the contest at 3-3.
The Pandas controlled much of the possession for the next 15 minutes, with the ball in the Stingers’ end of the field.
Pandas lock Janelle Romanchuk of Sturgeon County, Alta., was penalized in the 22nd minute with a yellow card and forced to the sin bin for 10 minutes.
The RSEQ champion Stingers were close to scoring their first try of the game on the ensuing play but were called back due to a penalty.
Late in the half, Stingers prop Erika Ikonomopoulos from Laval, Que., was sent off in the 29th minute. Two minutes later, the Pandas were able to take advantage of the extra attacker as centre Jennifer Cousineau of Coquitlam, B.C., had a nice run to set up favorable field position, leading to a try from Canada West player of the year Chelsea Guthrie from Edmonton. Chase converted the score to give Alberta a 10-3 lead.
The Stingers’ best scoring chance of the half came with two minutes left to play as CIS rookie of the year Bianca Farella of Montreal broke free on a 30-yard run and was taken down just before the try line. The Pandas defence was able to hold them out, however, and the 10-3 lead held at half-time.
The second period started with pressure from the Pandas which saw their efforts translate into a try in the 46th minute after Allison Fairbairn made a nice pass to centre Maya Hiller of Edmonton, who ran in the short score. Chase’s conversion gave the Pandas a 17-3 advantage.
Farella again set up the Stingers with good field position after she broke through for a 50-yard run in the 51st minute, but her teammates were unable to take advantage and score.
The Stingers finally connected for their first try of the game in the 55th minute as their maul pushed across the try line and Cara Stuckey of St. Chrysostome, Que., got credited with the try. Tittley’s conversion attempt was just short and the Stingers trailed 17-8 halfway through the second frame.
Farella got the Stingers even closer just four minutes later as she swung around some Pandas tacklers and was able to score Concordia’s second try. Tittley’s conversion brought the score to 17-15 in favor of the Pandas.
Just when the Stingers had gained momentum, Alberta lock Louise Chavarie of Gaspe, Que., took the wind out of their sails, scoring a try in the 64th minute. The Pandas were considering kicking a penalty goal, but instead opted for a quick touch and go, catching the Stingers by surprise. The try went unconverted and the Canada West champions increased their lead to 22-15.
Alberta padded that cushion six minutes later with a try from prop Stacie Becker of Sturgeon County, Alta., and conversion from Chase as they put the game out of reach at 29-15 with under 10 minutes to play.
Pandas centre Paige Farries from Red Deer, Alta., wrapped up the scoring with a 30-yard run down the sideline in the 78th minute.
Miranda Monty, a Canada West all-star and veteran fourth-year back row player from Edmonton, received player-of-the-game honours for the Pandas. Tittley was the Stingers’ game MVP.
Stingers head coach Graeme McGravie said “We didn’t play the game we wanted to play, obviously. We missed a few too many tackles, but I am happy with the effort. We gave it everything we had, so I am happy with that.”
“In the second half when we got to 17-10, we thought we could ring it back, but credit to Alberta, they came right back and scored, and that was the nail in the coffin for us. We just didn’t seem to have the horses after that to come back in it.”
ALB 10-24: 34
CON 3-12: 15
ALB – Teanna Chase penalty goal, 2nd minute
CON – Jackie Tittley penalty goal, 6th
ALB – Chelsea Guthrie try (Teanna Chase convert), 31st
ALB – Maya Hiller try (Teanna Chase convert), 46th
CON – Cara Stuckey try, 55th
CON – Bianca Farella try (Jackie Tittley convert), 59th
ALB – Louise Chavarie try, 64th
ALB – Stacie Becker try (Teanna Chase convert), 70th
ALB – Paige Farries try, 78th
Players of the game
ALB: Miranda Monty (Edmonton, Alta.)
CON: Jackie Tittley (Kirkland, Que.)