ANTIGONISH, N.S. – On the strength of four tries by AUS most valuable player Joanna Alphonso (Ajax, ON), the StFX X-Women defeated the Acadia Axewomen 58-21 to win the 2017 Subway AUS championship Friday night, taking home the Birks Memorial trophy.
The win marked the second conference title in a row for the X-Women. Both teams already punched their tickets to the U SPORTS national championship being held November 2-5 in Lethbridge, Alta. as representatives from AUS conference.
The X-Women got out to a 27-7 lead in the first half as the teams traded tries between StFX's June Beals (North Preston, NS) and Acadia's Monique Coffey (Dauphin, MB). Danielle Franada (Grand Prairie, AB) and Annie Kennedy (Kingston, ON) booted conversions for their respective teams as the 7-7 score held until midway through the opening half.
It was then that Alphonso scored three consecutive tries (all unconverted) to put the X-Women in front 22-7. She commented, "I thought we started out a bit slow, we normally known as a second half team."
"I think our quick adjustment to what was going on defensively – they were trying to draw us wide – helped us as we quickly realized that and it helped to shut down their offense."
Scrum half Alison Blanchard (Herring Cove, NS) added an unconverted X-Women try late in the opening half to establish the 27-7 lead at half.
The Axewomen came out strong in the second half and within the opening five minutes veteran fifth year winger and AUS all-star Tamara Dondi (Caledon, ON) was credited for a penalty try to close the gap to 27-14.
The X-Women were without key players Carolyn Williams (Orleans, ON) and June Beals (North Preston, NS) who both received yellow cards early in the half and had to wait out 10 minutes apiece in the sin bin.
After freshman fly half Hannah Ellis (Halifax, NS) scored for X in the 47th minute and Franada converted, the Axewomen answered with a try from Emma Pfleiderer (Williams Lake, BC) and another Kennedy convert to put the game at 34-21.
It was then where the defending national champion and No. 1 ranked X-Women pulled away with the game, scoring four unanswered tries.
Sara Hoerig (Whitby, ON), Alphonso with her fourth of the night, Miranda Sample (Havelock, QC) and Ellis with her second try, rounded out the game's major scoring as Franada added two more converts.
Acadia freshman Harley Tucker (Black Diamond, AB) was named Subway player of the game for the visitors while Alphonso received the same nod for the X-Women, along with being honored as AUS championship MVP.
Looking ahead to the national championship in Lethbridge next weekend, the X-Women captain noted that they have to take it game by game. "We can't look too far ahead, we need to take on the task at hand and work through from there."
The Axewomen will also be competing at the eight-team U SPORTS Championship. The tournament draw is scheduled to be released on Sunday.
GAME NOTE: John and Ann Birks were on hand to present the Birks Memorial trophy to the X-Women following the game. They are parents of the late Michelle Birks for whom the trophy is named. Michelle was a former X-Women rugby athlete and member of their 2006 national champion team who tragically passed away in 2007. The trophy honors here legacy and contribution to the sport of AUS women's rugby.
ACA 7-14: 21
StFX 27-31: 58
StFX – June Beals try (Danielle Franada convert), 3rd minute
StFX – Joanna Alphonso try, 19th minute
StFX – Joanna Alphonso try, 24th minute
StFX – Joanna Alphonso try, 31st minute
StFX – Alison Blanchard try, 38th minute
ACA – Tamara Dondi try (penalty try), 45th minute
StFX – Hannah Ellis try (Danielle Franada convert), 47th minute
ACA – Emma Pfleiderer try (Annie Kennedy convert), 57th minute
StFX – Sara Hoerig try (Danielle Franada convert), 62nd minute
StFX – Joanna Alphonso try, 65th minute
StFX – Miranda Sample try, 70th minute
StFX – Hannah Ellis try (Danielle Franada convert), 79th minute
Subway Players of the Game
ACA: Harley Tucker (Black Diamond, AB)
StFX: Joanna Alphonso (Ajax, ON)
Try: 5 points
Penalty goal: 3 points
Convert: 2 points