St. Albert’s senior rugby women are picking up the pieces from another devastating loss on their home pitch.
After the first 15 were throttled 67-13 by the Druids of Strathcona in last Saturday’s season opener in the Alberta premier league, the second division squad suffered a 55-7 pounding by the Lep/Tigers in their Edmonton Rugby Union (ERU) lid-lifter Wednesday.
“I don’t think we’re discouraged at all,” said an upbeat Laura Tod, St. Albert’s scrum-half in the crushing defeats. “It’s a learning experience, especially since it’s the first games. As we go through the season it’s going to get better.”
Last year the St. Albert Rugby Football Club was represented by the Blues and Reds in the second division. The Blues finished 13-1 as the triple-crown winners of the ERU pennant and playoff cup and the Alberta Rugby Union provincial championship. The Reds, a developmental side, placed seventh at 2-9.
St. Albert’s return to premier after a winless 2006 campaign was a humbling experience as the Druids, last year’s provincial finalists, registered 11 tries. At halftime it was 31-13.
“We’re happy with what we did on Saturday,” said Tod, who toiled with the over-matched premier team when St. Albert moved up a division after capturing the provincial second division crown in 2004 and 2005. “Again, it’s all about learning. You can’t make that little mistake that we’re used to making when we played in second div. Now you’ve got to tighten that up and you can’t get away with that. It’s also faster and not everybody is used to the speed.”
The starting line-up against the Lep/Tigers included players off the premier roster.
“We don’t have as much manpower as last year so some of us had to double up and play Saturday and Wednesday,” said Tod, the smallest player on the field in both losses. “This game came up pretty fast too. We didn’t find out until Monday night that we were playing and a couple of people couldn’t get work off. We had to mix and match because we didn’t have enough people. We had forwards playing in the backs. A lot of us played on Saturday too so it was tough.
“It should be different the next time. Hopefully it will be more of the seconds.”
The Lep/Tigers led 15-0 at halftime and racked up 33 more points before St. Albert broke the shutout with a try by rookie Caitlin Pon, captain of the 2009 Bellerose Bulldogs, and a conversion by Katie Davis in the 70th minute.
“I’m proud of the team. It was a pretty good game,” Tod said. “We did some things right and not everything went wrong. It’s like when we played on Saturday; one mistake and they capitalized and the same thing happened today. We would have a couple really good phases and then we would miss a tackle or not slide out and then they scored.”
St. Albert hung tough in the first half while surrendering three unconverted tries. After the Lep/Tigers opened the scoring in the fifth minute, the home team pushed the visitors back to their try line through diligent work by the forwards with strong surges advancing the ball.
“We had about 20 minutes when we were down in their end but we just made a couple of mistakes and couldn’t score,” Tod said.
In the first minute of the second half the Lep/Tigers struck for an easy try against a lethargic St. Albert defence. On the pick-and-go from outside the 22-metre line, the runner bolted around the pile of bodies on the short side and waltzed into the try area without fear of being tackled.
The winners recorded nine tries overall. The majority of the scoring plays revolved around quick bursts of speed, crisp passes and solid support. They also kicked five conversions
“They were definitely faster than us on the outside,” Tod said.
St. Albert’s bright spot was Breanne Tetz, an Amanda Lalonde clone at fullback. Tetz ran the ball with gusto and generated several try-saving tackles before subbing off with a lower body injury with the Lep/Tigers ahead 20-0. Her performance was on par with what Lalonde, the MVP and scoring dynamo with the 2009 Blues, displayed against the Druids.
“We really did show some promise,” Tod said. “Our forward pack was pretty strong. We had a lot of experience up there. Our backs did pretty well too.”
The next second division match is 7 p.m. Wednesday versus Crude/West at Leduc.
As for the first 15, they scrum down Saturday in St. Albert against the provincial champion Calgary Irish at 3 p.m. Last weekend the Irish blew a 17-point halftime lead as the Lep/Tigers’ premier team battled back to salvage a 17-all tie.
“We’re not looking at it like, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s the provincial champs.’ We’re looking at it as just a game. We’re going to work [Thursday at training] on our game plan and figure out what we’re going to do. We’re going to try and stick to that and hopefully it works out,” said Tod, 21, a Bellerose high school product who started playing senior rugby after her Grade 11 season.