Antigonish, NS – It was the sort of game you would expect from the top two teams in the AUS women's rugby conference. The Acadia Axewomen, ranked fourth in the nation, came out on top of a highly anticipated match-up with the StFX X Women by a score of 38-31. The win pushes the Axewomen to a 3-0-0 record, while the X-Women, ranked sixth in the country, are now 1-2-0.
The two regular season losses sees the X-Women in a place they have never been in – ever. Since women's rugby became an AUS sanctioned sport in 2002, the perennial AUS contender X squad has never lost two game in regular season play.
For the Axewomen, the win propels them to sole possession of first place. Their captain, fifth year flyhalf Annie Kennedy (Kingston, ON) commented after that game that said her team stuck to their game plan.
"We've been in the position before where we've had the pieces in place to win those games but couldn't play a full 80 minutes but we did today. I think that's really what helped us."
The teams were even to start the match, with the high scoring squads not putting any points up until the 15th minute, when Acadia's Keisha Kane (Caledon, ON) touched down for a try, and Sara Grant (Melrose, NB) converting.
StFX replied six minutes later, with Skye Koyote (Duncan, BC) finding some room thanks to a great handoff down the wing from Katherine Culligan (Halifax, NS). Acadia's Grace Pinch (Port Williams, NS) scored just three minutes later and Grant converted again to put the visitors up 14-5.
StFX gained some steam in the last five minutes of the first half with Claudia Fulton (Aylesford, NS) powering home a try in the 36th minute and Hannah Ellis adding another three minutes later off an interception. Ellis sprinted over 40 yards for the score and Danielle Franada (Grand Prairie, AB) made both conversions to switch the lead to 19-14 in favor of the X-Women.
Just to keep things exciting, the team exchanged tries in injury time, as veteran Axewomen prop Taryn McLachlan (Batawa, ON) earned a try and Grant followed up with the conversion, then X replied with Maddison Arnott (Hamilton, ON) landing on the ball over the try line after a Franada kick. With the ensuing conversion by Franada the X-Women lead 26-21 at halftime.
The Axewomen played a strong second half, limiting the X-Women to only a single try. Kennedy commented on her team's defensive play, noting that "our defense is something we take pride in every single year, we're know for our defense and chop tackles."
"I felt we were strong at getting into their second layer of attack and not giving up on pressure, that's what really secured the lead for us at the end of the game and the win for us today."
The Axewomen scored first in the second half with fifth year centre Emilie Merilainen (Batawa, ON) tying the game in the 51st minute.
STFX regained the lead seven minutes later, however with a Maddie Harroun (Halifax, NS) try.
It only took Acadia three minutes to respond with Merilainen getting her second try of the match. Without the conversion the game remained deadlocked at 31-31.
Acadia took the lead for good in the 67th minute, with McLachlan landing the try and Grant converting, then their defense held off the X-Women attack for the remainder of the game.
X-Women head coach Mike Cavanagh noted his frustration with the changing momentum throughout the game commenting, "It seemed like every time we gained some momentum we gave it right back to them, and every time we made a mistake they made us pay for it."
"At times, we were putting more pressure on ourselves than they were and we were never really able to play our game plan for any spells," he continued. "We did some good things, but then we'd make a bad pass or knock it on so...if we can clear that up we should be a much better team."
Player of the game for X-Women was first year flanker Camryn Kleynhans (Wellington, ON) and for Acadia it was McLachlan.
The X-Women next see action at home on October 2nd when they host the UPEI Panthers in a 2:00 p.m. game. Acadia will take on Saint Mary's in Halifax on the same day.
STFX Sports Information
ACA 21-17: 38
StFX 26-5: 31
ACA – Keisha Kane try, 15th minute (Sara Grant convert)
STFX – Skye Koyote try, 21st minute
ACA – Grace Pinch try, 24th minute (Sara Grant convert)
STFX – Claudia Fulton try, 36th minute (Danielle Franada convert)
STFX – Hannah Ellis try, 39th minute (Danielle Franada convert)
ACA – Taryn McLachlan try, 40th minute (Sara Grant convert)
STFX – Maddison Arnott try, 40th minute (Danielle Franada convert)
ACA – Emilie Merilainen try, 51st minute
STFX – Maddie Harroun try, 58th minute
ACA – Emilie Merilainen try, 61st minute
ACA – Taryn McLachlan try, 67th minute (Sara Grant convert)