By Michel Belanger
Caroline Suchorski of Kirkland, Que. scored a pair of tries to lead the McGill Martlets to a 19-10 win over the St. Francis Xavier X-Women in the team’s opening match of the CIS women’s rugby championship journey at TELUS-Université Laval stadium on Friday morning. McGill’s win eliminated the X-Women, defending Monilex Trophy champions, from medal contention.
The Martlets (1-0), who are looking for their first national title and are playing in their first CIS tournament since 2005, will face the Guelph Gryphons (1-0) Saturday at 10:30 a.m. to determine the first place in Group A.
As for the X-Women (0-2), who lost their opening Pool A duel 37-12 against Guelph Thursday morning, they will play for fifth position Sunday at 10 a.m. against the third-place finishers from Pool B.
“We were really nervous to start the game,” admitted McGill head coach Matt Stephens. “The girls just battled through it and it was great that they were able to withstand the pressure because StFX has a really good team. I was really happy with that.”
StFX’s bench boss, Mike Cavanagh, talked about mistakes his team couldn’t afford to make in order to win. “We missed some key tackles and every time we missed they made us pay. They are a good team. We played a little bit better today but at the end, if you are not making your first up tackle, you won’t beat any good team.”
The first part of the game was marked by big defensive plays. The X-Women approached the try zone twice but each time, 2013 CIS MVP Brianna Miller of Pointe-Claire, Que., saved the day for McGill with great clearance kicks.
Miller’s defensive play eventually helped McGill open the score. At the 17th minute, Suchorski, playing in the centres, scored the first try of the game after a good run. The convert from Miller was good and the Martlets were up 7-0.
The X-Women, who dominated in terms of ball possession in the first half, saw their efforts pay off on the 25-minute mark. A strong scrum by StFX at the in-goal line resulted in a try from Miranda Sample of Havelock, Que. The convert was missed however and the RSEQ conference champions kept the lead, at 7-5.
The Martlets were quick to add to their advantage in the second half. At the 36th minute, McGill players managed to outrun the X-Women defence, allowing Suchorski to score her second try of the morning. After Miller’s convert, it was 14-5 in favour of McGill.
Emma Taylor of Scotsburn, N.S., gave hope to StFX with five minutes to play by flattening the ball in McGill’s in-goal zone. The try was not converted and it was still 14-10 for the Martlets.
McGill sealed the win less than two minutes later with a try from Deanna Foster of Caledon, Ont., at the end of a spectacular 50-yard run down the left sideline. The score gave the Martlets a comfortable 19-10 lead, which was enough to get the four points.
Suchorski was selected player of the game for McGill. Prop Tasha McKensie of Indian Brook, N.S., received the same honour for StFX.