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Number-two St. FX squeeze past number-eight Axewomen in U SPORTS rugby

Emma Pfleiderer battles to gain some ground for the Axewomen.
Emma Pfleiderer battles to gain some ground for the Axewomen. - Gary Manning

WOLFVILLE, NS - The U SPORTS number-two ranked St. FX X-Women will retain first place in the AUS standings, but it didn’t come easy as they edged the host Axewomen 22-20 in the last game of the AUS regular season.

If the Axewomen had posted a win of 20 points or more, they would have clinched first-place overall, but the stars were not aligned for such a win.

Fans were treated to an epic battle, with Acadia pulling out to an early 15-0 lead.

Seven minutes into the match, second-year Axewoman Emilie Merilainen ran 20 yards after a pass from Annie Kennedy on the perimeter.

The Axewomen stretched the lead to 10-0 five minutes later when Alysha Corrigan straight armed two defenders and ran 65 yards to the try line for her fifth try of the regular season.

Late in the opening half, second-year flanker Laura Pfleiderer pushed the lead to 15-0 on a diving try in the corner of the try line.

Finally, the X-Women responded with two minutes remaining in the opening half, when Joanna Alphonso powered her way in for St. FX’s first points of the first half.

All tries of the first half were not converted.

Laura Pfleiderer dives over the try line versus St. FX.
Laura Pfleiderer dives over the try line versus St. FX.

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The opening 10 minutes of the second half seem to lean in favour of the X-Women.

In typical St. FX fashion, Amelia Hatfield powered over the try line on a one-yard dive, closing the Acadia lead to 15-12 on the Dani Franada conversion in the opening two minutes of the second half.

Sophie Parker added a third consecutive X-Women try five minutes later on another tightly contested inside run, which gave St. FX their first lead of the day.

St. FX’s last try of the day would come with nine minutes remaining in the match on the power of their ruck. Pulling ahead 22-15 on an unconverted try, time would become the enemy of the Axewomen squad.

With no time remaining on the unofficial clock, the Axewomen’s Keisha Kane pulled the Axewomen to within two points on a great effort in close. A missed conversion left the Axewomen short in tying the match.

Joanna Alphonso was named the Subway Player of the Game, while on the losing side, Gillian Bergsma was named Acadia’s Player of the Game.

Bergsma was happy with the effort but not the loss.

“I think that was the best game I have ever had with Acadia since our big win in 2015,” said Bergsma.

“We came out really strong but we have had some trouble out of the gate in the past and that was probably was the best start we have ever had. We came out fired up in the second half but things didn’t go our way and we couldn’t get the ball in our hands. We are ready to face them again,” said Bergsma.

Head coach Matt Durant was disappointed in the outcome but not with the effort.

“We let ourselves down in the second half. We got away from our game plan a bit second frame and let X control the ball. We expected to win the league this year and losing the first game at X was a setback for us. I think we can do something special in a couple of weeks in the final, but we will be making some adjustments based on today’s performance,” noted Durant.

“We felt great at halftime, but the knock-on to start the second half was a real tiring point for sure. We never really got on the front foot again in the second half and got away from our strengths. I expect a huge battle in the AUS final,” said Durant when asked about the opening second-half lull.

The X-Women will finish the season with a 6-0 record and first place in the AUS standings. The Axewomen will settle for a 4-2 and second place record and will host UPEI in the AUS semifinals this coming weekend.

Scoring Summary:

First Half
ACA – 7 min.     Emilie Merilainen try, no conversion                 5-0 ACA
ACA – 12 min.   Alysha Corrigan try, no conversion                    10-0 ACA
ACA – 32 min.   Laura Pfleiderer try, no conversion                   15-0 ACA
St. FX – 38 min. Joanna Alphonso try, no conversion                  15-5 ACA

Second Half
St. FX – 42 min. Amelia Hatfield try, Dani Franada conversion    15-12 ACA
St. FX – 46 min. Sophie Parker try, no conversion                      17-15 St. FX
St. FX – 71 min. Alison Blanchard try, no conversion                  22-15 St. FX
ACA – 80 min.   Kiesha Kane try, no conversion                         22-20 St. FX

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