The Ottawa Gee-Gees, moments from being dethroned as national champions, eked out a last-minute 26-24 over the host Acadia Axewomen in a riveting quarterfinal match at the U SPORTS Women’s Rugby Championship.
With less than a minute remaining in regulation, Tori Wyman short plunge knotted the score at 24 apiece and Claire Gallagher’s convert provided the margin of victory, advancing the Gee-Gees to Friday’s semifinal.
Michaela Haley’s two tries powered the Gee-Gees, who also got a try from Player of the Game Ellen Murphy. Gallagher contributed three converts, none more critical than the accurate boot that split the uprights in the dying seconds of a splendid quarterfinal match.
Maddie Mackenzie, with a pair, Alysha Corrigan and Gillian Bergsma, scored tries for Acadia Corrigan also added two converts. Mackenzie’s second try with nine minutes remaining in regulation put the host club in front and had many in the partisan crowd anticipating an upset of monumental proportions. Ottawa, unbeaten and top-ranked in the country throughout the 2018 campaign, dug down when it was needed most against the eighth-ranked Axewomen.
The loss was heartbreaking for Acadia, which played arguably its finest game of the year and at times dominated the action against a squad that surrendered an average of 7.3 points per match during the regular season. Trailing 19-5 only five minutes into the second half, Acadia mounted a comeback, tallying a pair of tries six minutes apart and adding another seven minutes later to assume a 24-19 advantage as a steady rain began to fall on Raymond Field.
Stunned but not conquered, Ottawa battled back, pushing, grinding, moving the ball in small but significant increments. With time winding down, Wyman dove under a wall of Acadia players to score the decisive try. Gallagher, her left foot good on three of four convert attempts, drilled the biggest one of her career.
Acadia outscored the defending national champion 19-12 in the second half.
Ellen Murphy, who was named the Player of the Game for the Gee-Gees, was happy with the win despite the close epic battle on Acadia’s home turf.
“It was a little tighter than what we wanted in our first game at nationals this week, but it doesn’t matter what the final outcome is as long as you end up with a W at this point of the tournament,” said Murphy. “It's all that really matters to get us on to the next round and it's ultimately where we want to be at the end of the day.”
When the Axewomen took the lead at the 60-minute mark on the MacKenzie try, Murphy noted that the team was prepared.
“It's just to trust our systems. We have done a lot of work this year and we have really grown and developed as a team and it was just trusting each other and knowing the girl beside you was going to do their job and to ensure we get to that final moment where we end up with the win at the end of the day"
The Gee-Gees move on to the semifinals against Guelph on Friday at 6:00 p.m. ET / 3:00 p.m. PT, while the Axewomen will have a day of rest before taking on Victoria on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. ET / 10:00 a.m. PT.
- OTT 14-12: 26
- ACA 5-19: 24
- OTT – Michaela Haley try (Claire Gallagher convert) 4th
- OTT – Michaela Haley try (Gallagher convert) 8th
- ACA – Maddie Mackenzie try 17th
- OTT – Ellen Murphy try 40th
- ACA –Alysha Corrigan try (Corrigan convert) 47th
- ACA -Gillian Bergsma try (Corrigan convert) 53rd
- ACA – Maddie Mackenzie try 60th
- OTT – Tori Wyman try (Gallagher convert) 69th
Players of the game
- OTT: Ellen Murphy
- ACA: Gillian Bergsma
As the official Rugby Ball Supplier of U SPORTS, Gilbert Rugby Canada will provide match balls and other prizing to the 2018 U SPORTS Women’s Rugby Championship hosted by Acadia University from Nov.1-4 at Raymond Field in Wolfville, N.S.