by Ben Matchett,
(ISN) – CALGARY – Kate Scotland’s penalty goal with just seconds remaining in the contest lifted the University of Calgary Dinos to berth in the Canada West championship game after a dramatic 20-19 win over the University of Victoria Vikes.
Top-seeded Calgary will take on the winner of the second semi-final between UBC and Alberta Sunday at 1 p.m. MT, in search of their first-ever conference title. Victoria will play the loser of that game for bronze at 11 a.m. MT.
The Calgary victory certainly didn’t come easy, however. Despite holding the lead for the entire game, the Dinos gave up two tries just five minutes apart in the final 10 minutes, as consecutive tries by Laura Crowe-Hutcheon and Chelsea Palman, the first of which was converted by Jess Neilson, turned a 10-point Calgary lead into a 19-17 advantage for the visitors with less than five minutes to play.
The Dinos didn’t give up, however, and they were awarded for their efforts with a penalty opportunity. From a difficult angle along the right side of the field, outside the football numbers on the McMahon Stadium turf, Scotland split the uprights for the game-winning points.
“It’s not something that we ever anticipated, and it was a definite scare,” said Calgary head coach Simon Chi. This whole season we’ve gone through stretches where we lose our focus, and it almost cost us there. But it’s a resilient bunch, and they found a way to win this one.”
“Kate is focused, and she wasn’t even phased by that kick. Mentally, she’s very tough, and we’ve been working on kicks for two or three years. It’s a tough kick for sure, but I really wasn’t worried. And she nailed it”
Calgary could easily have held a larger lead than the 12-7 edge they enjoyed at half time. Despite significant territorial advantage and many opportunities within metres of the try line, the Dinos were unable to capitalize as the Vikes successfully fended them off, especially in the opening 10 minutes of the game.
Last year’s national rookie of the year, DaLeaka Menin, finally broke through 16 minutes in, and Scotland converted from near the sideline to give the Dinos a 7-0 lead, sparking a flurry of scoring activity. Just four minutes later, however, the Vikes responded when Alanna Cryer’s try, converted by Neilson, tied it up at 7-7. And three minutes after that, Natasha Loucks put the Dinos back on top 12-7, and the score stayed there heading into the break.
The game went more than 30 minutes without any scoring until Calgary’s Ellen McGregor broke through Victoria’s defence for a long run downfield. The ball eventually ended up in the hands of rookie Elysa Sandron, and she added to Calgary’s lead making it 17-7 – and setting up the flurry of activity in the final 10 minutes.
“We lost our composure a little and made turnovers – we would get the ball back and just give it right back to them,” explained Chi. “We won’t get away with that, no matter who we play on Sunday. But we have a day to work on that.”
The 2014 Canada West rugby championship wraps up Sunday afternoon at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium.
CGY – DaLeaka Menin try (Kate Scotland convert), 16′, 7-0 CGY
VIC – -Alanna Cryer try (Jess Neilson convert), 20′, 7-7
CGY – Natasha Loucks try, 23′, 12-7 CGY
CGY – Elysa Sandron try, 56′, 17-7 CGY
VIC – Laura Crowe-Hutcheon try (Jess Neilson convert), 71′, 17-14 CGY
VIC – Chelsea Palman try, 76′, 19-17 VIC
CGY – Kate Scotland penalty goal, 80′, 20-19 CGY