Antigonish, NS – Friday evening at Oland Stadium, the AUS women's rugby season got underway and the time the defending AUS champion X-Women came out on top with a 76-12 victory over the visiting SMU Huskies.
StFX head coach Mike Cavanagh selected a starting lineup with a mix of youth and experience to begin the campaign. Olivia DeMerchant (Bedell, NB), returning for a fifth season from national team duty, and three-time reigning league MVP Joanna Alphonso (Ajax, ON), were mixed with second year players Katie Pentz (Trenton, NS) and Sara Hoering (Whitby, ON). The youthful Huskies were led by Julie Naugler (Stillwater Lake, NS) and Brittany MacKInnon (Halifax, NS) with Dartmouth, NS natives Alondrea Johnston and Leah Matheson making their debuts.
StFX demonstrated why they are ranked number two in the U SPORTS rankings by scoring early and often against an organized Huskie defence, which could not contain a fluid and ruthless StFX attack.
The X-Women finished out the first half with style as McCuish, and scrum half Lucy Killacky (Wolfville, NS) touched down. In the final five minutes X refused to let up. Fresh off the bench, freshman prop Maddie Harroun (Halifax, NS) scored before Hoering and Hamilton completed a 13 try-scoring half for the X-Women who were up 71-0 after the opening 40 minutes of play.
The second half saw a number of changes for both sides and the less experienced StFX players did not play with the same cohesiveness and aggression as the side that started the match. The Huskies enjoyed the vast majority of possession, but StFX defended well and made it difficult for Saint Mary's to make their possession count territorially or on the scoreboard.
First-year SMU flanker Paige Parker (Ellerhouse, NS), impressive throughout the match, came into her own in the second-half with a number of powerful runs and superb reads in both defence and attack. SMU performed well at scrum time with number 8 Sarah Penney (Dartmouth, NS) solid at the base. The Huskies new half-back pairing of Emma Baines (Halifax, NS) and AUS all-star Julie Naugler were both intelligent and skillful in their distribution. Playing the fullback position against StFX is a difficult assignment, but second year Elish Redshaw (Point Edward, NS) was brilliant throughout the 80 minutes. She was solid under the high ball, tackled efficiently and made a number of surging runs that gained her team valuable territory.
Both teams had difficulty advancing down the field yet, despite Saint Mary's having the majority of possession, it was StFX that eventually scored first with Harroun once again showing the depth X has at every position on the field.
The final five minutes saw the Huskies find an extra gear that perhaps even surprised the X-Women, when SMU finished by scoring two impressive tries which rewarded both their mental and physical resilience throughout the match. In the 76thminute substitute Leah Heath (Kanata, ON) scored before lock Marissa McBride (Cambridge, NS) surged across the line to complete the game's try scoring in the 80thminute. Fittingly, Redshaw converted the try to close out the contest. The final score ended at 76-12 for the X-Women.
The player of the game for the Huskies was fullback Elish Redshaw. The Subway Player of the Game was StFX's Keely MacCuish who had three tries on the night.
Saint Mary's will host the Axewomen in their home opener Sunday, September 16th at 3:00 pm.
Courtesy Bart Sears, StFX Sports Information