By Jamie Umbach, Vikes Communications
VICTORIA, B.C. – The University of Victoria Vikes women’s rugby team wrapped up Canada West regular season play on Oct. 18 with a 34-28 loss to the Alberta Pandas at Wallace Field. The Vikes, who finish 2-2 on the season, now travel to Alberta where they will meet the Pandas, 3-1, in Canada West Playoff action on Oct. 23.
After exiting the first half down 17-7 after the Pandas held a majority of the possession, the Vikes made it close in the second half by pushing the deficit to a try late in the game. First-year Vikes Gabrielle Senft, Nakisa Leval, Pam Buisa and second-year Gurpreet Dhaliwal added tries for the Vikes in the loss, with second-year scrum Jess Neilson hitting all four of her attempted conversions.
Liz Steele led the way for the Pandas with two tries, followed by singles from Amee Svatos, Amanda Smith, Amy Speers and Ali Wicklum. Rebecca Fairbairn added two conversions.
Both teams rotated the majority of possession in the first and second halves. The Vikes pressed back after being outscored and out-possessed in the first half.
“We played our game in the second half,” said Vikes women’s rugby head coach Brittany Waters. “We played quick, exciting rugby – moving them side to side and using our speed and conditioning to our advantage.”
The Vikes spent the first ten minutes of the game keeping the Pandas at bay in close proximity to their end zone. After Fairbairn made a strong forty-yard run deep into Vikes territory for the Pandas, they had to press hard for their deserved lead. They found the break through minutes later after harassing the Vikes’ defensive line and driving it through for the 5-0 lead. The Pandas kept up the pressure, eventually their lead to 12-0 five minutes later on a similar play.
After the Pandas were issued a yellow card, the Vikes took advantage of the numbers by driving home their first try of the game. Gabrielle Senft pushed through her fourth try of the season before Jess Neilson smashed home the convert to make it 12-7 for the Pandas.
Minutes later on a Vikes scrum near their end zone, the ball bounced out in the Pandas’ favour.. The ball was easily touched down after the Vikes lost possession to restore the Pandas’ lead to two scores at 17-7 before the half-time break.
The Pandas applied pressure off the restart to begin the second half. A strong fifty-yard run from Wicklum untouched to the Vikes’ end zone to put the Pandas up 24-7. Speers then increased the task of coming back for the Vikes, extending their lead to 29-7.
But the Vikes began to roar back with a lot of work to do midway through the second half. Buisa broke through the Pandas’ line to touch down the Vikes’ second try of the game. The Pandas’ lead was reduced to 29-14.
The Vikes held the majority of possession in the second half, eventually scoring their second try of the half to make the difference eight points at 29-21. Neilson sent another conversion through the uprights, adding to her strong record in the kick department this season.
The Pandas took a double-digit lead again on a good scrum near the Vikes end zone. The ball was dragged by the scrum into the Vikes’ end zone and easily touched down to put the game away at 34-21.
The Vikes pulled within one try at 34-28, but the whistle blew following Neilson’s conversion for full-time in both teams’ final game of the season.
Both teams won’t have to wait long to face each other again, but this time there will be more at stake. The Vikes now travel to Edmonton where the Pandas will host Canada West Playoffs, entertaining the Vikes in the semi-finals on Oct. 23.
“I think we can bring our strong second half today into our playoff game against the Pandas,” added Waters. “The girls gained a lot of confidence. There is a lot of excitement and self-belief going to Alberta.”
1 2 F
UVIC: 7 21 28
ALB: 17 17 34
UVIC: J. Nielson (4C), G. Senft (1T), G. Dhaliwal (1T), N. Leval (1T), P. Buisa (1T)
ALB: A. Svatos (1T), L. Steele (2T), A. Smith (1T), R. Fairbairn (2C), A. Speers (1T), A. Wicklum (1T)