Vancouver, BC: Day one of the National Women's League Finals saw 12 teams competing at UBC in the opening rounds of the National Women's League Finals, a competition featuring the highest level of domestic women's rugby in Canada.
In the Tier One semifinals, Alberta upset defending champions BC to advance to the gold medal final. The fourth-seeded Albertans will have to produce another stunning performance on Sunday if they look to topple the Ontario Storm, who downed Quebec 57-22 in the other seminal match on Thursday.
In the Tier Two division, a competition featuring a round-robin format, table leaders Saskatchewan produced a nine-try performance to down New Brunswick 53-5. The BC Under-23 squad were also in top form, topping Ontario's U23 team 49-12.
The Under-20 competition saw hosts BC finish on top of the day one standings with a 61-15 bonus point victory over Manitoba. Ontario are close behind in the standings after a 23-17 win over Alberta.
Tier One - Senior Women's Semifinals
Semifinal 1: Alberta 17, British Columbia 16
The fourth-seeded Alberta senior women's provincial team narrowly defeated the Tier One reigning champs British Columbia at UBC on Thursday afternoon, scoring a pivotal try in the second half to down the hosts 17-16.
BC led early on through tries from Kim Donaldson and Jess Dovanne but Alberta had the answers with strong running converted into tries by Canadian internationals Ash MacDonald and Brittany Ore. After BC centre Andrea Burk successfully kicked two penalties, BC had some breathing room carrying a 16-10 lead into the final 20 minutes.
The hosts failed to score on a number of scoring opportunities, however, and a relentless Alberta attack resulted in Jenn Kish eventually going over for a crucial try for a 16-15 score line. Laura Murhpy-Burke stepped up and slotted home the conversion to see Alberta through to the Tier One final for the first time since the National Women's League tournament was restructured in 2007.
"It doesn't get much tighter than that," said Alberta's head coach Matt Parish. "That was a great comeback for us. Our girls have worked hard for it this year and it's great that they have a chance to now play for the gold."
For BC head coach Jason Young, a one-point differential was hard to swallow for his players that will now play for bronze. "That game really could hove gone either way," Young said after the final whistle. "Credit to Alberta because they really took it to us. We had a number of scoring chances that we didn't capitalize on. Their back row was especially strong and I thought they had a huge impact on the game."
The hosts BC will now play for bronze against Quebec on Sunday, July 3rd while Alberta advances to the national title game against Ontario on Sunday at 12:30pm.
Semifinal 2: Ontario 57, Quebec 22
The Ontario Senior Women's provincial team known as the 'Storm', advanced to their sixth straight national title match after downing Quebec 57-22 in the semifinal round of the National Women's League Tier One competition.
Canadian international and Ontario speedster Cheryl Phillips was a commanding force throughout the match, leading all scorers on the day with 15 points, through a try and five conversions.
"Cheryl had a great game," said Ontario head coach Sandro Fiorino. "She performed at both 10 and 15, she saw the field well and she saw the gaps and went for them."
Ontario recorded nine tries by the final whistle with Kelly and Laura Russell each crossing over, as well as Asya Bartlety, Gizelle Panton, Sarah Van hoog, Natalie Tam, Natasha Turner and Megan Gibbs. Misha Maric tacked on the conversion to round out the scoring.
Quebec's offence was led by Magali Harvey who notched a try and conversion for seven points. Elizibeth Majeau and Elie Papineau also crossed over.
"You have to give credit to Quebec because they came out and played well," added Fiorino. "We didn't play a complete game as a lot of our players are fresh off of playing sevens rugby, but we are looking forward to the final against Alberta on Sunday."
Tier Two - Round Robin
British Columbia-U23 49, Ontario-U23 12
Led by Kayla Moleschi's hat trick of tries, British Columbia's Under-23 women's team downed Ontario's U23 squad by a convincing 49-12 score line to open the NWL tournament at UBC this afternoon. BC took a 13-7 lead into half time before exploding in the second frame for a another five tries agains their arch rivals.
"We had a really slow start to the first half," said BC U23 coach Dave Chambers. "We gave away way too many penalties in the first half but in the second we sorted those and were really able to come out and play our game."
Moleschi led all scorers with 15 points through three tries. Loose head prop Chelsey Minter recorded the brace for BC, while singles were notched by Christie Auzins, Christina Bordington, and Megan Hamm. Randi Hunter kicked a total of nine points for BC through three conversions and a penalty.
Rosie Lang recorded Ontario's opening try which was converted by Bronwyn Corrigan. Nikki Stephenson also dotted down for the visitors to round out their 12 points.
BC will now face off against table leaders Saskatchewan on Friday, July 1st 12:45pm.
Saskatchewan 53, New Brunswick 5
Saskatchewan's senior women's provincial side were in top form on the opening day of the NWL tournament, recording a nine try performance en route to a 53-5 win over New Brunswick. Saskatchewan full back Gillian Allen opened the scoring with centre Jenn Skilnick converting. No. 8 Kayla Mack recorded the next try before the floodgates opened for the Prairies side. Julie Paetsch and Kayla Mack recorded two tries a piece before Karlee Isfeld, Caitlin Grant all crossed over to dot down. Skilnick finished the day with eight points after kicking four conversions.
Saskatchewan wrap up the day leading Tier Two through point differential against BC. New Brunswick moves on to play Ontario's U23 provincial side at 11:00am on Friday, July 1st.
Under-20 - Round Robin
British Columbia 61, Manitoba 15
The British Columbia Under-20 women's team opened their 2011 campaign with an impressive 11-try effort to down Manitoba's U20 squad 61-15. Brit Holness, Jen Cousineau and Jozie Kola each recorded two tries a piece for BC while singles were recorded by Cassy Stevens, Demi Stamatakis, Karli MacFarlane, Mia Rushton and Paniz Pahlavanlu.
BC fly half Shannon Craig kicked three conversions to round out the scoring for the home side. Manitoba centre Taylor Post led the visitors offensively, notching ten points through a try, conversion and a penalty. Flanker Emily Tuttosi scored Manitoba's final try.
BC will look to stay undefeated on Friday, July 1st when they take on Alberta. Kickoff is scheduled for12:45pm at Wolfson Fields.
Ontario 23, Alberta 17
In a tightly contested match, Ontario's Under-20 provincial team held off a resilient Alberta side with a four-try performance to post a crucial bonus point. Sarah Guttin led all scorers with two tries with singles posted by Hillary Sweet and Fedilia Omoghan. Zoe Smith capped off the scoring with a converted penalty for Ontario. Anna Holowaychuk, Tasha Bamahare and Alanna Fittes recorded tries for Alberta with Bamhrae kicking the conversion. Ontario will now scrum down against Manitoba on Friday, July 1st at 11:00am.
2011 NWL Schedule
Friday, July 1 at UBC's Wolfson Fields
11:00am: (Tier 2) Ontario U23 vs New Brunswick
11:00am: Ontario U20 vs Manitoba U20
12:45pm: BC U20 vs Alberta U20
12:45pm: (Tier 2) Saskatchewan vs BC U23
Sunday, July 3 at UBC's Wolfson Fields
9:00am: Manitoba U20 vs Alberta U20
9:00am: (Tier 2) New Brunswick vs BC U23
10:45am: (Tier 2) Ontario U23 vs Saskatchewan
10:45am: Ontario U20 vs BC U20
10:45am: (Tier 1 Consolation Final) Loser Game 3 vs Loser Game 4
12:30pm: (Tier 1 Championship Final) Winner Game 3 vs Winner Game 4
The National Women's League Finals is an annual competition featuring the highest level of domestic women's rugby in the country. BC will field three teams for the NWL tournament scheduled for June 30th through July 3rd at the University of British Columbia's Wolfson Fields.