Antigonish, NS - The U SPORTS No. 3 ranked StFX X-Women remain undefeated following a 65-5 victory over the UPEI Panthers Sunday afternoon.
This was an encounter in which the Panthers did not take a backward step against the defending national champions. The X-Women's set-piece proficiency and ability to take advantage of slight Panthers miscues saw the home-side through to victory.
UPEI controlled possession in the opening minutes, but were soon forced to make a clearing kick from deep in their own zone, which gave X a lineout from just outside the 10-metre line. Claudia Fulton's (Aylesford, NS) perfect throw to Sophie Parker (Windsor, NS) set StFX off on a rolling maul that the Panthers pack were unable to halt. After about 20 metres gained, the ball went smoothly through the back line with Dani Franada (Grand Prairie, AB) making the final pass to Katherine Brennan (Bedford, NS) who touched down in the corner in the sixth minute of play.
Minutes later the X forwards and backs ability to work through numerous phases led to their second try of the game by outside centre Sara Hoerig (Whitby, ON). The first few phases of the scoring drive were dominated by Sara McCarron (Antigonish, NS), whose enterprising runs put the Panthers defenders on the back foot. Fly-half Hannah Ellis (Halifax, NS) hit Hoerig with a perfect pass and ran in from 30 yards eluding a number of Panther defenders. Franada completed the conversion to give StFX an early 12-0 lead.
Not two minutes later X struck again courtesy of Alex Hamilton (Eastern Passage, NS). The Panthers had the X-Women pinned at their own 22-metre line when Sammy Nadeau (Nepean, ON) saw the smallest of gaps and took off down the sideline. She was just metres from the Panthers line when Mia Fradsham (Marshfield, PEI) somehow tracked her down. Nadeau looked back, perhaps more in hope than expectation, and found the welcoming hands of flanker Hamilton, who crossed over the line.
StFX's next score was a cruel blow to the Panthers. The Panthers were awarded a penalty from an X infringement, but on the Panthers quick tap and go the ball was knocked on and the result was a StFX scrum. From the scrum, the X-Women went through a number of phases before Sam Lake (Windsor, NS) touched down in the corner.
Fellow Windsor, NS native Sophie Parker put in a dominant first-half performance for the host team. She was superb as first jumper in the lineout, in open play and, for StFX's fifth try, perfect from the base of the scrum. The X-Women were awarded a scrum when a number of defenders held up the UPEI ball carrier and the referee declared a maul (with the scrum going to the defending team). Parker calmly collected the ball and powered through the Panther defence. Franada provided the extra two points and StFX took a 29-0 lead midway through the first half.
While the Panthers lineout did not function effectively throughout the game, the scrum provided the Panthers with invaluable front-foot ball. After 25 minutes of play the pack's power and precision had pushed the X scrum back and the referee had no choice but to award a penalty to the Panthers. Full credit must go to Sarah MacLeod (Victoria, PE), Tessa Hood (Charlottetown, PE) and Frances MacWilliam (Alberton, PEI. The Panthers were able to go through numerous phases with Mia Fradsham (Marshfield, PE) and Augustina Cohen (Halifax, NS) functioning effectively at half-back for the visitors. Only for ferocious StFX defending and excellent tackling, best exemplified by Meghan Buchanan (Lethbridge, AB) were the Panthers kept for so long off the scoresheet.
The next try came via another Nadeau off-load. StFX once again found themselves in possession deep in their own half when Franada kicked downfield to relieve the pressure. The ball found Panthers fullback MacKenzie Hale (Halifax, NS) who could not elude the tackle of Hannah Ellis. Nadeau found the ball in her hands and bolted down the sidelines where this time it was Franada who was the recipient of the try-assisting offload.
The X-Women made an uncharacteristic number of handling errors throughout the match, but with the Panthers tiring somewhat, the X-Women were able to exhibit their fine off-loading skills as they scored from 70 metres out. Sam Lake found Maddie Harroun (Halifax, NS) and a number of passes later Brennan off-loaded to Hoerig who found Fulton running at full speed and into the endzone.
The final try of the half came courtesy of a patented Harroun run. The Panthers were penalized for not releasing and Harroun quickly picked up the ball and touched the ball down. The score at the half was 48-0.
The second half saw Coach Cavanagh look to his bench for fresh legs. StFX immediately took the initiative with Sara McCarron crossing over the line with newly introduced Katie Pentz (Trenton, NS) providing the charging run that lead to the try.
McCarron continued her fine form with her second try of the match just six minutes later when she galloped in from 45 yards out. The scoring play began when a Panthers player was penalized for holding on after a huge tackle by X rookie Jaiden Weinrauch (Edmonton, AB). From the ensuing scrum StFX made a number of quick off-loads before McCarron received the pass and raced in for the try.
The X-Women's final try of the match was scored by Weinrauch. On a fine backline play, Nadeau (now at fly-half) connected with Buchanan who made a short run before providing a perfect pop pass for Weinrauch, who ran a great line away from the Panther backs and into the corner.
The Panthers were finally rewarded for their efforts on the last play of the game when substitute Emily Duffy (Saint John, NB) ran in a try from 40 yards. StFX were penalized for off-side and a quick tap by Fradsham set the Panthers on their way. Duffy ran a great supporting line and when she received the off-load she was in full flight and there was no stopping her as she took the ball over the line in the 80th minute, resulting in the 65-5 final scoreline.
UPEI, despite the score, put it up to StFX throughout the match. Their dominant scrum made the X-Women concede four penalties, a remarkable achievement. The Panthers backline showed great skill and composure with ball in hand, especially considering some of the backs were not in their preferred position. When the Panthers had possession, they had X on edge and forced them to concede an uncharacteristic amount of off-side penalties.
The play of Elizabeth McQuaid (Cornwall, PE) and Brinten Comeau (Hammonds Plains, NS) was superb. The Panthers player of the game, McQuaid was fierce at the breakdown and never far from heart of the action. Comeau gave a textbook example of backrow play as she linked up nicely with the backs and was always where she needed to be to assist her teammates.
For the X-Women, forward Alex Hamilton received Subway player of the game honours for her strong play in the match.
The X-Women will now focus on their next game on Friday evening, September 27th when they travel to Wolfville, NS to take on their conference rival Acadia, who are also undefeated on the season. Game time is 7:00 pm.
The Panthers will host the Saint Mary's Huskies in a 2:00 pm game on Saturday, September 28th.
Recap courtesy Bart Sears, StFX Sports Information
UPEI 0-5: 5
StFX 48-17: 65
StFX – Katherine Brennan try, 5th minute
StFX – Sarah Hoerig try (Danielle Franada convert), 9th minute
StFX – Alex Hamilton try, 11th minute
StFX – Sam Lake try, 17th minute
StFX – Sophia Parker try (Danielle Franada convert), 20th minute
StFX – Danielle Franada try (Danielle Franada convert), 27th minute
StFX – Claudia Fulton try (Danielle Franada convert), 29th minute
StFX – Maddie Harroun try, 35th minute