Wolfville, NS – The StFX X-Women defeated the Laval Rouge et Or 26-12 in the U SPORTS semifinal game Friday evening to punch their ticket into the gold medal game Sunday afternoon.
The persistent rain didn't dampen the competitive spirits of the AUS champion X-Women as they were led by player of the game Olivia DeMerchant (Bedell, NB) who scored a pair of second half tries in the victory.
Always humble, when asked what she thought of her performance the veteran fifth year U SPORTS second team All Canadian noted, "I think there's always areas where I can improve, I knocked on a couple balls there at the end of the game, but overall I was pleased with my performance."
In referring to the strong play up front DeMerchant commented, "I thought we were very dominant in our set piece, but there's never really a time where you want to take your foot off the gas."
With the win, StFX advances to the U SPORTS gold medal game Sunday at 4:30 pm. They await their opponent from the winner of the second semifinal game between the OUA champion Guelph Gryphons and the RSEQ champion and defending national champion Ottawa Gee Gees. The loser will play Laval in the bronze medal game Sunday at 2:00 pm.
The X-Women controlled the majority of possession in the game in the opening 10 minutes of play. After a trio of consecutive five metre scrums and pressuring to touch down, flanker Amelia Hatfield (Halifax, NS) finally scored the first try of the game for the X-Women in the 11th minute. Danielle Franada (Grand Prairie, AB) kept up her strong kicking from yesterday and made good on the conversion to give the X-Women the early 7-0 lead.
The Rouge et Or came right back down field on the next possession, however, and scored a try of their own in the 17th minute by Jan-Ma Létinois (Hangzhou, CHI). Véronique Gagné (Québec, QC) converted the score in the 17th minute to tie the game up 7-7.
The AUS champion X-Women answered back two minutes later as DeMerchant had a nice run that helped set up a try by Sophia Parker (Windsor, NS). The try went unconverted as the X-Women regained the lead at 12-7, a score that held up until halftime.
Laval threatened eight minutes into the half when Marie-Laura Choquette (Quebec, QC) found a seam in the X-Women defense and streaked down the field deep into X territory. A slip of the ball in the wet conditions saw her drop the ball and turn it back over in a lucky turn of events for StFX.
As the rain and wind picked up throughout the evening, so did the intensity of the game as the Rouge et Or pressured to get back into it, and the X-Women fought to hang onto their lead.
After a long possession Laval made good and centre Nele Pien (Dendermonde, BEL) touched down for their second try of the game in the 54th minute. With no conversion, the Rouge et Or trailed the X-Women 19-12 with 16 minutes left to play.
The X-Women had many strong scrums throughout the duration of the game and their front row continued to dominate as they scored their final try in the 66th minute to seal the victory as the scrum pushed over the try line and DeMerchant touched the ball down. Franada's conversion brought the final tally to 26-12.
X-Women head coach Mike Cavanagh was pleased with how his team played today and noted the difficult weather circumstances. "You have to play to the weather and play to the conditions, and we have to play to our strengths and I think we did."
The gold medal game is scheduled for 4:30 pm on Sunday afternoon where the X-Women will attempt to take home their sixth national championship banner in team history.
Courtesy StFX Sports Information
LAVAL 7-5: 12
StFX 12-14: 26
StFX – Olivia DeMerchant try (Danielle Franada convert), 39th minute
LAVAL – Nele Pien try, 54th minute
StFX – Olivia DeMerchant try (Danielle Franada convert), 66th minute
Players of the Game
LAVAL: Nele Pien
StFX: Olivia DeMerchant