Eoin Colquhoun, Pronghorn Athletics
Lethbridge – Playing the inaugural Ric Suggitt Memorial game, the Lethbridge Pronghorns powered past the Alberta Pandas, 32-17 and punched their ticket to the Canada West Championships in Calgary next weekend.
Returning to the program this season after time away, Sarah Gordon and Brittany Orr led the way with Orr scoring three tries, while Gordon scored two tries and kicked one convert. Hannah Lopez scored the other Pronghorn try. Jayne Isherwood, Courtney Holtkamp and Jaimie Braybrook scored tries for the Pandas and Ali Wicklam connected on one convert.
"That was a fitting game to memorialize Sluggo," said Pronghorn head coach Neil Langevin. "Both teams played with emotion, skill and physicality."
"So happy with the girls who put in a lot big tackles against the Pandas and Brittany Orr was instrumental for us in being the difference between two physical teams."
With the wind gusting heavily across the field, both team's kicking games were nullified and had to rely on short passes and attempt to march the ball down the field.
Following a Panda turnover deep in their own end, Gordon took an offload from Sara Cline and punched in her first try of the day. She also made the convert to put the Pronghorns up early.
The Pronghorns continued to press the Pandas and Orr jumped on a loose ball that had rolled into the Pandas end zone. After a discussion between the referee and line judge, the try was finally awarded.
Former USA sevens member Hannah Lopez was next to get in on the action for the Pronghorns. Gordon off loaded the ball to Lopez in full sprint to score her third try of the season and put the Pronghorns ahead 17-0.
Taking advantage of Pronghorn errors and penalties, the Pandas got back into the game late in the half with Courtney Holtkamp finishing off a strong push from the Pandas. With the convert being missed, the Pronghorn lead was cut to 17-5 and the Pandas looking to build momentum for the second half.
However, Brittany Orr had other ideas, scoring her second try during extra time to give the Pronghorns a 22-5 lead at the break.
Out of half time, the Pandas put the Pronghorns back on their heels and off another long sequence of Panda possession aided by Pronghorn penalties and strong rucking by the visitors, Jayne Isherwood brought the Pandas back within 12. Pushing the ball five yards at a time, the Pandas finally got the Pronghorns unorganized in their spacing, allowing Isherwood to go in relatively untouched.
Creating another Panda turnover midfield, it was now the Pronghorns turn to put together a strong set of plays with Gordon capping off the possession with her second try of the day.
Almost immediately following Gordon's try, Panda Jaimie Braybrook scored a highlight reel try. Sprinting down the sideline she was able to elude all Pronghorn would be tacklers for a 60-yard score and will with Ali Wicklum's first convert of the day, cut the Pronghorn lead back to a manageable 10 points with 16 minutes to play.
Any thought of a late comeback by the Pandas, similar to the one a season ago, was put to rest with Brittany Orr touching down her third try of the afternoon. Last year in Edmonton, the Pandas scored four tries in the final two minutes of the game to erase a 33-15 lead and hand the Pronghorns a 39-33 loss.
The win secures third place in the Canada West standings for the Pronghorns (2-2) and will have to wait for the result from the final regular season game between the Calgary Dinos and Victoria Vikes to see who they will face in the Canada West semi-final next Friday in Calgary.
"We are excited to be playing in next week's semi-final by claiming third place in the tough Canada West Conference," concluded Langevin.
The Pandas (0-4) finish the 2017 Canada West season winless for the first time ever and will miss the conference championships for only first time in the program's history.
1 2 F
Lethbridge 22 10 32
Alberta 5 12 17
Pronghorns try #10 Sarah Gordon –Convert – good (Sarah Gordon) 7-0
Pronghorns try #13 Brittany Orr – Convert missed - 12-0
Pronghorns try #15 Hannah Lopez – Convert missed 17-0
Pandas try #8 Courtney Hotlkamp – Convert missed 17-5
Pronghorns try #13 Brittany Orr – Convert missed – 22-5
Pandas try #4 Jayne Isherwood – Convert missed – 22-10
Pronghorns try #10 Sarah Gordon – Convert missed – 27-10
Pandas Try #14 Jaimie Braybrook – Convert good (Ali Wicklam) – 27-17
Pronghorns Try #13 Brittany Orr – Covert missed – 32-17