Despite some great efforts put in by Stettler Wildcats, they came away with a defeat to arch rivals Hunting Hills, 35-19, in their semi-final playoff on Wednesday, May 17 in Red Deer.
Yet, Josh Elliott, head coach said he was quite pleased with the girls and the way they conducted themselves on field.
“Defensively we were very organized and we made the most of our offensive chances when we had them,” Elliott said. “Hunting Hills is consistently a very strong program and it was a good challenge for us, and I was proud that the girls didn’t back down at any point in the game and gave their opponents a run for their money.”
Wildcats finished the first half playing good rugby, although they were down 3 tries to 0, and just needed a spark offensively to give them some momentum, which Emily Brown provided with a nice step and a 70-yard run bursting through traffic, according to Elliott.
“We put the pressure on Hunting Hills and they started to get chippy within their own team; our next try, was thanks to a strong run by Megan Roper breaking through the line and solid support running by Shayna Brower,” Elliott added.
Stettler’s final score was by standout rookie, Shaylyn McNeil, who showed “good decision making” by holding onto the ball against drifting defenders on a 2 on 1 and speeding past defenders for a dominant run.
“At the end of the game, our girls showed a lot of character; to play as a hard-working team from beginning to end and to show their high skill level that all of them have developed in such a short time is amazing,” Elliott commented.
Wildcats participate in a 7s Festival showcase
On Thursday, May 18, the Wildcats rugby team travelled to Hanna to help Hanna and Drumheller kickstart their rugby programs in a 7s Festival showcase to their town.
Stettler brought 14 athletes and made two teams and had a round robin tourney with the Hanna and Drumheller teams.
“I was really impressed with the two programs, especially Hanna who has some really good athletes and actually was able to beat us in the first game, 4 tries to 2,” Elliott commented.
The 7s rugby is typically a festival way of playing rugby whereas 15s rugby is what is play in school leagues.
This was played 7-on-7 with the same field dimensions and rules, and is the version of rugby that was brand new at the Rio Olympics.
According to Elliott, Hanna and Drumheller are using 7s as a way to build up their rugby program this season by doing exhibitions and festivals with the hope of having a 15s team in the near future.
“Going to Hanna allowed our girls to be ambassadors for the game and be good role models of rugby culture for the Hanna and Drumheller athletes,” Elliott said. “It was a really good time and the girls enjoyed their first time playing 7s rugby.”