November 4, 2012, ANTIGONISH, N.S. (CIS) – The St. Francis Xavier University X-Women avenged their shutout loss to Guelph in last year’s national final with a convincing 37-0 victory over the Gryphons in the gold-medal match of the 2012 CIS women’s rugby championship, presented by the Town of Antigonish, Sunday afternoon at StFX Oland Stadium.
Playing in front of a partisan hometown crowd of over 5,000 blue-and-white-clad fans, the X-Women were only up 5-0 at halftime but exploded for 32 points after the break en route to the third CIS title in school history. StFX was also crowned in 2006 and 2010.
The 15-time AUS conference champions were playing in a remarkable fifth straight CIS final, and their sixth in the last seven years. They were defeated 28-0 by Guelph in the 2011 title match.
Guelph was also looking for a third Monilex Trophy. In addition to last year’s championship run, the Gryphons had claimed the inaugural CIS banner back in 1998.
StFX team captain Asya Bartley scored the lone try of the first half at the 17th minute. Tyson Beukeboom, Lisa Gauthier, with two, Tina Hansen, Amanda Thornborough and Allie Munroe added second-period tries, while Magali Harvey contributed a convert.
Fourth-year No. 8 player Tyson Beukeboom, a three-time AUS player of the year and three-time all-Canadian from Uxbridge, Ont., was named championship MVP, while Thornborough earned game-MVP honours for the winning side.
Head coach Mike Cavanagh, named CIS coach of the year before the tournament, said the final score didn’t reflect how hard-fought the game was.
“It was tough. I don’t think the score shows how good Guelph really played. The first half was touch-and-go right until the break. Guelph played like the champions they are, so it was a tough game.”
Commenting on the momentum the X-Women found in the second half, Cavanagh said, “I think we wore them down in the first half with our defence, with our constant tackling going backwards. It’s hard when you’re going backwards.”
“Our girls really wanted it, they were like a dog after a bone and weren’t going to let up. They just kept getting stronger. It was a great atmosphere today as well, I think Antigonish had rugby fever and not only did we receive the school support, but support from the whole town as well, it was amazing.”
Both teams were working out the jitters in the opening five minutes of play and exchanged possession several times with no key scoring chances available to either side in a physical battle of the top two teams in the country.
Fifteen minutes in, Thornborough, a CIS all-Canadian winger from Brandon, Man., brought the X-Women down field and fellow all-Canadian Harvey, a native of Quebec City, made some headway down the sideline but the Gryphons defense pushed them back.
Guelph flanker Brittany Priddle made a break a couple minutes later and almost found a seam until she was taken down by Gauthier, a center from St. Bernadin, Ont.
The X-Women, ranked No. 1 in CIS throughout the season, finally got on the scoreboard at the 17-minute mark when Emma Taylor, an AUS all-star from Scotsburn, N.S., stole the ball off a Guelph lineout, then moved it to fifth-year prop and fellow conference all-star Bartley of Ottawa, who pushed her way across the try line, just touching down inside the corner of the end zone. The unconverted try gave the X-Women a 5-0 lead.
Bartley was close to scoring again in the 29th minute, as was center Allie Munroe of Truro, N.S., as StFX pressured the Gryphons try line, but the OUA champions pushed them back.
The Gryphons exerted their own pressure late in the first half with nine minutes to play, bringing the ball to the X-Women 22-metre line, but were unable to punch through the StFX defence.
Fullback Caitlin McNally, an all-Canadian from Guelph, gave the Gryphons hope with a sideline break with four minutes left in the opening period, but the X-Women were able to boot away the ball and clear it.
Britt Benn, the CIS player of the year from Napanee, Ont., broke away for a 25-yard sideline sprint in the final minute of the half but was taken down by Harvey as the physical battle between two strong defensive squads was the story of the first 40 minutes of play.
In the final minute, StFX center Sara Kaljuvee, a native of Ajax, Ont., received a yellow card and was sent to the sin bin. On the ensuing play, Gryphons fly half Stephanie Tibelius of Ottawa attempted a penalty goal kick but was short, and the 5-0 score in favor of StFX stood at half-time.
The X-Women came out strong in the second half. Deep in the Gryphons zone in the 44th minute, they had consecutive pushes towards the try line as Harvey first thought she had touched the ball inside the corner of the end zone, then fourth-year prop Olivia DeMerchant of Woodstock, N.B., again pushed towards the same corner but both plays were held up by the tough Gryphons defence.
Beukeboom did push through the try line two minutes later, however, giving the X-Women a 10-0 lead as Harvey’s convert attempt was short.
Gauthier gave the X-Women a bit of breathing room with a try scored in the 53rd minute. The score went unconverted as the host team held a 15-0 advantage over the defending champions from Ontario.
The X-Women fed on the excitement of the hometown crowd and turned it on as Gauthier scored her second try of the game in the 61st minute. Harvey made good on her first conversion of the afternoon as StFX increased its advantage to 22-0.
The offence continued for the X-Women who maintained possession in Gryphons territory. It appeared that DeMerchant had scored for X but the play was held up. On the ensuing play, StFX surged forward and Hansen, a fifth-year scrum half from Fredericton, touched the ball across for the X-Women’s fifth try of the afternoon. The unconverted try resulted in a 27-0 X lead with 13 minutes to play.
Gauthier was close to scoring her third try of the day with seven minutes remaining, but was held up by the Gryphons defense inches before the try line.
Thornborough added to the X-Women lead with a try in the 75th minute after Harvey kicked the ball into the end zone and she pounced onto it, cushioning the advantage to 32-0.
Gryphons fourth-year prop Megan Lowry from Barrie, Ont., was penalized with a red card in the 78th minute of play due to a dangerous tackle on Harvey and left the game.
Munroe scored the final try in the 80th minute, pushing across the line, much to the delight of the hometown fans, who cheered on their team in the final seconds.
Thornborough commented on the physical aspect of the game.
“In the first 20 minutes I thought to myself, this is going to be a really long game because it was a battle of the shoulders, and it was a game of inches.”
The all-Canadian winger went on to say that the game was very tight, particularly in the first half, then a shift began in the second half.
“I think we realized we weren’t satisfied being up by five points so we kept the ball moving inch by inch up the field and we came out on top.”
When asked about her reaction to winning the national title, Thornborough said, “It’s my last season with X and this is all I wanted. It’s explicable the feeling I have right now. I am so proud of everyone, I am so proud of my team.”
On the other side of the ball, Guelph head coach Colette McAuley commented that her team came out firing for the first time in the tournament and that she was happy with the start of the game.
“I think my players understood the importance of this game. We’ve got a young team, but the veterans showed them the way and we went out to battle.”
“I think the first half was excellent. We worked as a team, we connected on defence, had great communication, and attacked well,” continued McAuley. “Once they got a head of steam in the second half, I think because we don’t see a whole lot of competition in our regular season, it was hard to bounce back from.”
“You need to learn how to come from behind, you need to learn to be gritty and mentally tough even when you’re down, and I think that’s something we’re going to have to work on.”
“It was a great game to watch. I was so proud of my girls, and even of the other team, the opposition was fantastic. It was a great game.”
Fourth-year veteran fullback Caitlin McNally picked up player-of-the-game honours for Guelph.
The X-Women cap off an undefeated 13-0 season with the gold-medal victory.
Named to the tournament all-star team were X-Women Asya Bartley, Emma Taylor, Tyson Beukeboom, Beth McNeill, Sara Kaljuvee, Amanda Thornborough and Magali Harvey, while Gryphons players Morganne Linthwaite, Caitlin Beaton, Britt Benn and Caitlin McNally picked up all-star nods.
Rounding out the all-star selection were Carmen Hobbs and Chelsea Guthrie of Alberta, and Claragh Pegg and Taylor White of Queen’s.
The Acadia Axewomen received the R.W. Pugh Fair Play Award for the team best exhibiting sportsmanship and fair play over the course of the championship.
StFX 5-32: 37
StFX – Asya Bartley try, 17th minute
StFX – Tyson Beukeboom try, 47th
StFX – Lisa Gauthier try, 53rd
StFX – Lisa Gauthier try (Magali Harvey convert), 61st
StFX – Tina Hansen try, 67th
StFX – Amanda Thornborough try, 75th
StFX – Allie Munroe try, 80th
Players of the game
StFX: Amanda Thornborough (Brandon, Man.)
GUE: Caitlin McNally (Guelph, Ont.)
Try: 5 points
Penalty goal: 3 points
Convert: 2 points
- Championship MVP: Tyson Beukeboom, StFX (Uxbridge, Ont.)
- R.W. Pugh Fair Play Award: Acadia Axewomen
- StFX – Asya Bartley (Ottawa, Ont.), prop
- Alberta – Carmen Hobbs (Edmonton, Alta.), hooker
- Queen’s – Claragh Pegg (Barrie, Ont.), prop
- StFX – Emma Taylor (Scotburns, N.S.), second row
- Guelph – Morganne Linthwaite (Guelph, Ont.), lock
- Queen’s – Taylor White (Bancroft, Ont.), flanker
- Guelph – Caitlin Beaton (Clavering, Ont.), lock
- StFX – Tyson Beukeboom (Uxbridge, Ont.), No. 8
- Alberta – Chelsea Guthrie (Edmonton, Alta.), scrum half
- StFX – Beth McNeill (Vancouver, B.C.), fly half
- StFX – Sara Kaljuvee (Ajax, Ont.), center
- Guelph – Britt Benn (Napanee, Ont.), center
- StFX – Amanda Thornborough (Brandon, Man.), winger
- StFX – Magali Harvey (Quebec City, Que.), fullback
- Guelph – Caitlin McNally (Guelph, Ont.), fullback