The Rowers Women put on a dominant performance in Saturday’s BC Rugby Division 2 semi final match at UBC’s Wolfsen field, beating the Nanaimo Hornets 55-12, and securing a place in the BC Provincial Final to be played this coming Saturday.
Veteran backliner Sam Quiago got her team off to a strong start, taking an offload from a teammate, fighting through a tackle, and eventually taking it home to draw first blood. 5-0 Rowers, and they were just getting warmed up.
Strong attack lines extended by excellent support and well-executed offloads would become a staple of a Rowers offense that was clearly firing on all cylinders. Back row forward Sophie Gannon made the next Rowing Club line break, and was able to carry to just short of the goal line before being slowed down. She kept her feet to find Kirsty Auckland in a position to receive the offload and finish the job. Captain Meghan Buchanan slotted the conversion to make it 12-0 Rowers.
Gannon would score a try of her own minutes later, as the Rowers worked their way out of their own zone with strong inside carries by the forward pack, until Gannon slipped a tackle and just kept on going. 17-0 Rowers.
Quaigo, always deadly in space, added five more on an exciting coast-to-coast run that put a deep Rowers support section distinctly in party mode. 24-0 Rowers following a successful conversion.
Nanaimo would put themselves on the board before the first frame was over (three twenty-minute periods in BC Women’s 10 a side), taking advantage of a… rare… 2nd row pick out of the scrum, and making it 24-5. But it didn’t matter. The rout was on.
The Rowers Women put on a clinic in the second frame of this game. It started when they caught the Hornets off guard with quick ball to prop forward Cliona Ni Mhaolruaidh at the front of the lineout, sucking the defense in and giving fullback Jessica Deagle enough space to burn around the outside for a try (29-5 Rowers). Having demonstrated effective attack off of set piece, they moved on to open field maneuvers.
A Rowers try in the 32nd minute that came off of a rolling train of offloads made the heart of every rugby coach in attendance swell with pride and envy. It started with Buchanan using a step to force the defender to make a reach to get a wrap on her. Fighting through the drag-tackle, Buchanan offloaded to super sub utility back Judith Peuvergne on the first of a series of perfectly timed support lines, run one after another. Each offload pop pass seemed to build into the next one, causing the initial break in the defensive line to snowball into a sustained attack that was one step ahead of the defense all the way to the end goal. Gannon, hooker Henna Parmar and Quiago were all part of the fluid, consistent attack that culminated in Quiago’s third try of the game. A successful conversion made it 36-5 Rowers.
The much-discussed try really felt like it belonged to the whole team, and Coach Stu Holland told us after the game that it was, “the best try I’ve seen in a long time,” adding that, “the girls have been working real hard on offloads lately.”
Buchanan received the kickoff for the final 20 minute period and ran it straight at them, beating a would-be tackler with a crisp show-and-go, and another one with a stiff arm, then turning on the jets and taking it all the way home. Parmar slotted the conversion to make it 43-5 Rowers.
With the game in hand, the Rowers tightened the attack up, pounding carries through the forwards and focusing on possession to maintain control. Veteran prop Sarah Hayes made herself hard to tackle and paid it off with a strong carry that found the goal and gave Parmar an opportunity for another successful conversion, 50-5 Rowers. Auckland would add a second try, her second of the day, to make it 55-5 with only six minutes left.
Nanaimo rallied in the final minutes, determined to go down swinging, but had their attack cut short at the one meter line by a relentless Rowers defense who refused to yield, despite a strong lead. Excellent structure and dogged pursuit pushed the Hornets attack outside, where the ball carrier was tackled into touch, to the delight of a Rowers support section taking up all available space in the bleachers.
Nanaimo earned a second try as time expired to make the final score 55-12, giving the Rowers a chance to start thinking about the final.
After expressing gratitude for the Rowers cheering section who made the trek out to UBC to take in the decisive victory (“The VRC has the best supporters in the world,”), Coach Holland was understandably pleased with his team’s performance. “The ladies really came out to play this week. They gave it 110% out there and played the full 60 minutes. We’ve just been taking it one game at a time and now we’re just focused on next week.”
The Rowers Women will face Langley RFC in the Division 2 final this coming Saturday May 7th at South Surrey Athletic Park. When the teams last met in March, Langley earned a 46-15 victory at home. The result was a near perfect inverse of the 46-12 victory that the VRC Women came out of Langley with this past October.
Coach Holland isn’t thinking much about prior results. “We’re just going to play our game and get the W.”