Lethbridge edges Alberta in Clash of Titans
by Eoin Colquhoun, U of Lethbridge Sports Info
Photo courtesy U of Lethbridge Athletics: Amanda Richardson (right) grabs the ball from an Alberta player in a tight battle of CIS Top 5 teams
Lethbridge 22 Alberta 7
Tries (4 pts): Kelsey Willoughby, Ashley Patzer, Kenzie Ralph
Converts (2): Ashley Patzer (2)
Penalty goal (3): Ashley Patzer(2)
Tries: Allison Lamoureux
Converts: Miranda Monty
Penalty goals: none
LETHBRIDGE, AB - In a battle of undefeated teams between the two heavy hitters of Canada West women's rugby, the defending CIS champion Lethbridge Pronghorns came out on top with a 22-7 win over the Alberta Pandas in a display of tackling virtuosity.
In the process, the Pronghorns clinched first place in the conference standings. Of special interest, heading into the final conference game of the season neither team had surrendered a point, leaving one or both teams destined to emerge with their season-long shutout streak broken. Since the introduction of women's Rugby into Canada West competition, Alberta and Lethbridge are the only two schools to claim the conference titles; Alberta claimed the first seven titles, while the Pronghorns have taken home the last three.
A tentative start to the contest saw many unconverted passes leading to knock-ons, but even as the Horns found their rhythm in their attack, the Pandas defended well with the help of some sure tackling, keeping the game scoreless for much of the opening half. The Horns' precision kicking and quick ball movement hemmed the Pandas into their own end for majority of the half, but were halted just short of the touchline on numerous separate attacks. First year flanker Kelsey Willoughby (Lethbridge) finally broke free from the pack and sprinted to the touch area late in the half to break the stalemate. Horns captain Ashley Patzer (Lethbridge, 5th) converted the try from the center of the field to put the Horns up 7-0.
The slug fest continued into the second half. While the Pandas had yet to threaten offensively, they stymied the Horns continuously and made it difficult for the Horns to put consecutive passes together and break free to take advantage of their speed. That same passing sequence that the Pandas had defended so well led to the Horns next score, with Patzer starting and finishing the five pass play, sprinting to the center of touch. She converted her own try to put the Horns up 14-0. After a Patzer penalty goal put the Horns up 17-0, Horns sub Laura Murphy-Burke (Surrey, BC, 2nd) sprung Horns speedster Kenzie Ralph (Raymond, AB, 2nd) with a calculated kick to the left side, hitting Ralph in stride. Murphy-Burke missed the convert making the score 22-0 in favor of the Horns.
With time running out, the Pandas made a late surge, pushing the Horns deep into their own end and crossing the Horns ten meter line for the first time in the game. Pandas loosehead prop Allison Lamoureux (Winnipeg, 5th ) powered her way across the touch for a late try. Miranda Monty (Edmonton, 1st) converted the try to close out the scoring.
The Canada West championship goes next weekend in Edmonton, with the Horns facing off with fourth place finisher Victoria in one semifinal Saturday, while the Pandas face the UBC Thunderbirds in the second semi. The winners of those two games with face off Sunday with the Canada West title and a berth at Nationals on the line.