St. Albert’s return to Alberta premier women’s rugby left last year’s provincial second division champions seeing stars.
The Druids of Strathcona lit up the home team for 11 tries in Saturday’s 67-13 drubbing at the St. Albert Rugby Football Club.
“We’re obviously going to have to learn how to play in premier,” said fullback Amanda Lalonde. “At the end of the year I know we’re not going to have that score for sure. We’ll be on top of things.”
The first 15 haven’t scrummed down in premier since their winless 2006 season after celebrating consecutive provincial second division victories in 2004 and 2005.
“It’s a new year in premier and we just have to build as a team and believe that we can beat these people just like last year and be at the top,” said Lalonde.
The most valuable player and leading scorer with the 13-1 St. Albert Blues in 2009 put a positive spin on the crushing loss.
“We only had a couple of practices so for the first game of the season it was definitely a great effort. We came together as a team,” Lalonde said. “We were huffing and puffing just as much as them but they did have a little bit more on us.”
St. Albert spent the bulk of the match defending instead of attacking. The Druids, last year’s provincial premier finalists, crossed the try line five times in the first half — ignited by a pair of scores in the opening 10 minutes — to lead 31-13 at the break.
“Our defence was really put to the test,” Lalonde said. “We did really well with our tackling. Our hits were on. Obviously they got through some holes and we have to work on covering a little more.”
With the Druids up 17-0, a galloping Lalonde reeled in the ball in front of the Druids' 22-metre line and broke a tackle en route to scoring under the posts in the 21st minute.
“It felt great. The play worked the way we planned it.”
The game breaker at outside-centre last year with five tries in one match and seven in three playoff tilts, including 13 in the last five contests of the season, made a rare start at fullback. She rattled off some dangerous runs and also charged through traffic to hammer the ball carrier and force a couple of turnovers.
“It’s definitely different but I do like the position. You get to see the whole field and sometimes you direct people where they should be. I hope to advance in it,” said Lalonde, 21, the high school product of the Sturgeon Spirits who played wing for U20 Canada with prop Stacie Becker at the 2009 Nations Cup in England.
Four minutes after Lalonde’s score the Druids continued to pour it on with a converted try to lead 24-7. St. Albert closed out the first half with a couple of penalty kicks to trail by 18.
The floodgates opened six minutes into the second half as the Druids ran in the first of six tries while racking up 36 unanswered points against a St. Albert side that looked to be out of gas.
An experienced line-up of St. Albert talent included newcomer Marlene Nedved, who played premier with the Clanswomen last year. She displayed good hands in the centre and was tough to tackle.
As for last year’s Blues with the first 15, Tara Sliwkanich was a steady all-around contributor in the centres. Up front, Tanis Sawatzky and Megan Lauer also turned in solid efforts. Veteran hooker Zara Dowie didn’t play because she was on a rugby excursion in Ireland.
The next premier match is Saturday in St. Albert against the provincial champion Calgary Irish at 3 p.m. The Irish and Lep/Tigers battled to a 17-17 draw in their season opener.
Meanwhile, the second division women’s fixtures kick off tonight at 7 p.m. as the 2009 Edmonton Rugby Union pennant winners (10-1) and playoff champions (26-14 over the Druids in the final) host the Lep/Tigers at the Leading Edge Physiotherapy Fields.