Rugby Axewomen advance to Finals after 52-20 win over UPEI

WOLFVILLE, N.S. – The U SPORTS No. 8 ranked Axewomen will advance to the AUS finals against defending U SPORTS and AUS champions StFX next Saturday night after topping the visiting UPEI Panthers in semi-final play, 52-20.

The opening 20 minutes were tight as the Axewomen worked hard in defending a feisty Panther team who led 10-7 in the opening 10 minutes of the match.

The Axewomen struck first when Emilie Merilainen scored the first of three tries against the Panthers. UPEI followed quickly with a converted try by Mia Fradsham to take their first and only lead of the game.

Merilainen scored again in the 13th minute to give the Axewomen a 12-7 lead on a converted try by Annie Kennedy.

Acadia would score 14 additional points before the Panthers would reply. Kennedy converted Laura Pfleiderer and Monique Coffey tries before UPEI responded with a penalty kick for three points that would end the half.

The Axewomen opened the second half with tries by Emma Pfleiderer and Monique Coffey’s second try of the night.

Behind 40-10, UPEI’s Dayna Pitter scored an unconverted try in the 66th minute to close the gap to 40-15.

Acadia’s Halie Naas and Emilie Merilainen each added a try in the 66 and 79 minute that was split by UPEI’s Sarah MacLeod at the 69th minute.

In the end, the 52-20 lead was insurmountable by the Panthers, yet Acadia’s head coach credits UPEI for the great effort and determination the team showed.

“We had some girls who didn’t play last week and were resting up their bodies, so I suspected we’d look a little disjointed to start the game but you have to give all the credit to UPEI who are such a proud team who have played this game 10 years in a row and yet to beat us. They are driven, well-coached, they have a lot of heart so it just isn’t that we didn’t play well at the start, it’s how well they played,” noted Acadia head coach Matt Durant when asked about the slow start.

“I think we as a coaching staff will always pick out stuff we can work on. We gave up more points tonight to UPEI than I expected we would, but I was really impressed with our defense. We played really well inside our own 22. We buckled down defensively, played some really strong goal-line defense, so I am not really discouraged by our defensive play, but I was a bit surprised they were able to get 20 points on us based on how we played defensively, but again, credit to UPEI,” said Durant.

The Axewomen will now advance to finals against StFX next Saturday afternoon in Antigonish.

Eric Cederberg is the Director of Communications for Acadia Athletics