Antigonish, NS – The StFX X-Women are the 2016 AUS champions after a decisive 62-0 victory over the Acadia Axewomen Friday night at Oland Stadium as over 200 fans braved the wet, cold weather to take in the AUS final.
In a rematch of the 2015 final that saw Acadia defeat the X-Women lose 34-17 to Acadia, they revenged that loss and claimed back the AUS title, the 18th in team history. StFX were previous AUS champions from 1998 through to 2014.
Third year prop Joanna Alphonso (Ajax, ON) who was honored as the AUS most valuable player for the second consecutive season, commented after the game that the team didn't have the 2015 loss on their minds heading into tonight's final.
"We can't look back in order to move forward, so that really helped us focus on the victory tonight. We really prepared for this, there was a lot of morning practices, afternoon workouts and fitness sessions that we know we had to do in order to dominate tonight like we did."
Veteran fifth year fly half Sabrina McDaid (Scarbrough, ON) had 12 points on the night as she booted six conversions. Her strong kicking play resulted in Sunday Player of the Game honors.
McDaid commented on the game plan heading into the final, saying "We wanted to play the best we could and were following the advice from Mike [Cavanagh] who said that defense wins championships so we just went out and tried our best and were happy with the results."
The X-Women opened up a 29-0 lead in the first half, opening the scoring with an unconverted try by Danielle Cormier (Halifax, NS) in the fifth minute as they carried the momentum early in the game. Alphonso broke through and was taken down just before the try line to set up the score.
Second year lock Carolyn Williams (Orleans, ON) scored in the 13th minute after StFX continued the pressure in the Acadia end as Alphonso and the physicality of the front row helped set up second try.
Cole Harbour, NS native Breanna Allison scored the third try of the game for the X-Women with her quick feet, grabbing a pass and sprinting across the try line. McDaid converted the score in the 17th minute.
Acadia's best chance to score came in 20th minute, as they broke through the X defense, running the ball 20 yards up to the 18 yard box. The StFX defense was able to hold them off.
Any momentum Acadia had was eliminated when Ellen Murphy (Augustine Cove, PE) broke through some Axewomen tacklers and ran the ball in some 40 yards to score StFX's fourth try of the night and give them a 22-0 lead.
StFX was pressuring the try line with six minutes left in the first half. After the Acadia defense held them back on a few chances, the the ball got out to the X-Women wingers and Beals ran in for a short try. McDaid converted.
Acadia did pressure in the final minute of the opening half but were held off the try line as the X-Women held onto the 29-0 lead at halftime.
The X-Women continued their dominate play in the second half. McDaid commented, "We had the win second half and Coach Mike told us to just keep kicking as their back three were struggling to return kicks and our back three were coming up hard off the line."
In the 49th minute, McDaid had a good push towards the try line which set up an X-Women scrum. The ball came loose into the hands of Sample who scored the X-Women's sixth try of the night. McDaid's third conversion of the game gave StFX a 36-0 lead.
Sample scored her second try of the night on a similar play off a StFX scrum seven minutes later and McDaid made good on the conversion.
Reigning AUS most valuable player Joanna Alphonso got on the score sheet with a try in the 61st minute. After Beals streaked towards the Acadia try line to set up good field position for the X-Women, Alphonso finished off the play from the X-Women offensive pressure. McDaid's fifth conversion increased the X lead to 50-0.
The speedy Beals scored her second try of the night, picking up the ball off a bounce and darting into the end zone in the 66th minute. McDaid converted to increase the StFX lead.
Alphonso rounded off the StFX scoring with her second try of the game (unconverted) in the 75th minute as the Axewomen were unable to threaten with any significant scoring chances in the second half.
Veteran fifth year prop Janice Cougle received Subway Player of the Game honors for Acadia, who will be joining the AUS champion X-Women as a second AUS representative at the upcoming U Sports national championship November 3-6 in Victoria, BC.
Looking ahead to nationals, McDaid commented, "We need to take it game by game and focus on our defense. If we come in strong off this win and keep the ball rolling and keep going strong on defense we could win another national championship."
X-Women head coach Mike Cavanagh was pleased with his team's performance, saying "I think we played the weather a bit better than they did, Sabrina [McDaid] kicked very well and kept them in their half, keeping lots of pressure on them. Our forwards really dominated, and defensively we were great."
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ACA 0-0: 0
StFX 29-33: 62
StFX – Danielle Cormier try, 5th minute
StFX – Carolyn Williams try, 13th minute
StFX – Breanna Allison try, (Sabrina McDaid convert), 17th minute
StFX – Ellen Murphy try, 24th minute
StFX – June Beals try (Sabrina McDaid convert), 35th minute
StFX - Miranda Sample try (Sabrina McDaid convert), 49th minute
StFX – Miranda Sample try (Sabrina McDaid convert), 58th minute
StFX – Joanna Alphonso try (Sabrina McDaid convert), 61st minute
StFX – June Beals try (Sabrina McDaid convert), 66th minute
StFX – Joanna Alphonso try, 75th minute
Subway Players of the Game
ACA: Janice Cougle (Lethbridge, AB)
StFX: Sabrina McDaid (Scarborough, ON)
Try: 5 points
Penalty goal: 3 points
Convert: 2 points