Day 1 of the women's rugby championships brought upsets. Photo: University of Ottawa Sports Services
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Gryphons knock out No.1 ranked St. Francis Xavier on Day 1, while No. 2 Queen’s Gaels remain dominant

Day 1 of the 2019 USports Women’s Rugby National Championships called for four exciting quarterfinal matchups. The winner of these games will advance to semi-finals, with hopes of earning the national championship title on Sunday. 

No. 1 St. FX versus No. 8 Guelph 

The opening game was a rematch of last year’s gold medal game. The defending champions from St-Francis-Xavier University were on the hunt for their seventh championship banner, the most for any USports women’s rugby program. 

Coming off of a loss to Queen’s in the OUA finals, the University of Guelph Gryphons were looking for redemption. Being matched up against St. FX in the quarterfinals meant they had to take down the team that ended their gold medal dreams last year. 

“It was a good balance of wanting to get revenge and wanting to go out there and play good rugby,” said Guelph head coach Colette McAuley.

The Gryphons came out strong, opening up with a try after just a few minutes of play. The team in Garnet and Gold found themselves in the endzone twice more before St. FX  able to score a try and close the half at 19-5 for Guelph. 

After halftime, the Gryphons kept the pressure on to pull off the upset. With a final score of 36-12, Guelph moves on to the semi-final round on Friday. 

After a heartbreaking loss, the St. FX women will now look to win their consolation game. 

“I think it’s going to be up to our leaders now to get us to rebound and get refocused, said  St. FX head coach Mike Cavanagh said after the game. “There are still two more games to play, we have to learn from our mistakes today and hopefully keep moving forward.”  

No. 4 UBC versus No. 4 Laval

The second game of the day was between the Canada West champions, University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, and the RSEQ finalists, University of Laval Rouge et Or. 

Being undefeated in the regular season but dropping the RSEQ championship to the University of Ottawa, the Rouge et Or went into the quarterfinal matchup knowing they had to bounce back. 

“For us, a loss today wasn’t acceptable,” player of the game for Laval and scrum-half Justine Pelletier said. “We have to bring up our game and go forward, forget about the loss in the past and focus on what we can control.” 

The Rouge et Or were clearly in control throughout the game, constantly attacking. The team scored 19 unanswered points in the first half. 

Coming out of the intermission, the Rouge et Or added a field goal and a try to make it 27-0. 

The Thunderbirds picked it up part way through the second half: Fly-half Breanna Aikens found the endzone, putting her team on the board and showing off their ability to score. 

UBC scored another try, this time with a successful convert, making the game 29-5 for Laval. 

Unfortunately for UBC, scoring opportunities came too late and Laval took the game 32-12. 

Thunderbirds head coach Dean Murten spoke about both teams postgame. 

“We made some unforced errors, we lost the ball, we weren’t disciplined enough,” said Murten. “Laval is a really sharp team. We gave them two or three opportunities and they scored from it.” 

No. 3 Ottawa versus No. 5 Calgary

At sunset, the home team finally hit the turf. The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees took on the University of Calgary Dinos in the closest game of the day. 

Read our full recap of the Gee-Gees 18-7 victory. 

No. 2 Queen’s versus No. 6 Acadia

Under the lights, the OUA powerhouse Queen’s Gaels took the field to face off against the Acadia Axewomen to finish up the quarterfinals. With Queen’s averaging over 92 points per game throughout their stellar season, it was clear Acadia was given an easy matchup. 

OUA MVP Sophia de Goede opened up the scoring, giving Queen’s an early lead. 

The Gaels added two more tries, bringing the score to 15-0 before Acadia snuck in their first try of the game, ending the half down 15-7. 

The Axewomen were not granted any more luck in the second half, and still couldn’t find a way to slow down the dynamic Gaels offence. The Gaels pulled away, crushing the Axewomen’s defensive efforts and finding a way to score from nearly every position on the field. 

Mid-way through the second half, Acadia did score another try, but not before Queen’s had more than double their halftime score to make it 43-12. 

Both teams contributed more points to the board, but the outcome was clear, a 55-19 win for Queen’s.

On Friday, all eight teams will be back in action. Guelph will face Laval while Ottawa will take on Queen’s with two spots in the national championship game on the line, the rest of the teams will look to recover and battle it out for fifth.

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