Antigonish, NS – In a stunning comeback, the UPEI Panthers put a damper on STFX Homecoming weekend by defeating the STFX X-Women 25-22 in the final game of the AUS regular season Friday night at STFX Stadium.
On a wet and chilly evening, veteran Panthers prop Emily Duffy (Saint John, NB) scored consecutive tries in extra time late in the game to give UPEI the win – an important one that clinched first place in the AUS conference and the right to host the AUS championship game.
The X-Women had held the lead in the entire game up until the final minutes of play. With the loss they finish one point back of the Panthers in the standings and will host Acadia in the AUS semifinal game next week.
Playoff schedules will be announced in the coming days by the AUS office.
STFX controlled possession early on in the game and kept moving forward with the ball. They were rewarded when Katie Douglas (Charlottetown, PE) scored the first try of the game 11 minutes in. The unconverted score gave the X-Women an early 5-0 lead.
The Panthers then came right back down field on their next possession and got on the board with a penalty kick from Charlotte Branchflower (Halifax, NS).
Douglas touched down again in the 29th minute for her second try of the match and Branchflower booted another penalty kick five minutes later as the Panthers trailed 10-6 with six minutes to go in the first half. The X-Women lead held up at halftime.
Katherine Culligan (Halifax, NS) had a key run for X early in the second half, leading to a try by Akwaima Akpan (Halifax, NS). Katie Murphy (Millville, PE) made good on the conversion as the home squad went up 17-6.
The Panthers battled back and touched down for a try of their own in the 53rd minute after sustained progress in the STFX end of the field. Carla Stewart (Crapaud, PE) scored and Branchflower kicked the convert as UPEI closed the X lead down to four points, 17-13.
The teams continued to trade scores as X got on the board again in the 65th minute with Akpan touching down for her second try of the night. The unconverted score gave the X-Women a 22-13 lead.
STFX player of the game Douglas played a strong second half for STFX with several key possessions and runs to keep the X offense moving forward.
The Panthers willpower down the stretch however powered them to the come-from-behind victory. Duffy scored with no time left on the clock and Branchflower kicked her second conversion to close the gap to 22-20.
UPEI then took possession in extra time and despite a valiant effort by the STFX defense to hold them up, Duffy finally found a seam and touched down for the winning score. She also picked up player of the game honours for her squad.
With the win the Panthers clinched a playoff bye and will host the AUS championship game the week of October 23rd as they attempt to defend their AUS title.
The X-Women will host the third place Acadia Axewomen in the AUS semifinal game next week with the winner advancing to take on UPEI.
Recap courtesy Krista McKenna, STFX Athletics
Photos courtesy Bryan Kennedy, STFX Athletics
UPEI 6-19: 25
STFX 10-12: 22
STFX – Akwaima Akpan try, 44th minute (Katie Murphy convert)
UPEI – Carla Stewart try, 53rd minute (Charlotte Branchflower convert)
STFX – Akwaima Akpan try, 65th minute
UPEI – Emily Duffy try, 80th minute (Charlotte Branchflower convert)
UPEI – Emily Duffy try, 80th minute
Players of the Game:
UPEI – Emily Duffy (Saint John, NB)
STFX – Katie Douglas (Charlottetown, PE)
Try: 5 points
Penalty goal: 3 points
Convert: 2 points
The X-Women honoured the graduating senior athletes and student staff prior to the game