Arron Lai; Dinos Communications
CALGARY – In the opening semifinal of the 2017 Canada West Rugby Championship, the host and top-ranked University of Calgary Dinos cruised to a 44-12 victory against the No. 4-ranked UBC Thunderbirds Friday afternoon at Calgary's Hellard Field.
The Dinos (5-0) advance to Sunday's conference championship game, where they'll face the Victoria Vikes (4-1) for the lone remaining Canada West berth at the U SPORTS championship Nov. 2-5 in Lethbridge, Alta. That game kicks off at 1 p.m. at McMahon Stadium, live on CanadaWest.tv.
UBC will play Lethbridge for the conference bronze medal Sunday at 11 a.m.
The Dinos opened the match with heavy intensity and pressure, pressing the T-Birds across the half line for more than 15 minutes. The Dinos broke through with their first try of the match early. After a lineout a couple yards away from the goal line that was won by the Dinos, sophomore Sarah Thomas muscled her way past the try line to give the Dinos a 5-0 lead in just the third minute. It was Thomas' first try of the season, after starting in all the Dinos' regular season matches.
The frantic pressure by the Dinos continued, leading to a fantastic run by fifth-year senior Temitope Ogunjimi after she received a pass behind the 22-metre line. Ogunjimi's try gave the Dinos a 10-0 lead 8 minutes into the match.
Seven minutes later, after more pressure by the Dinos, reigning U SPORTS and Canada West player of the year DaLeaka Menin powered through multiple UBC defenders after receiving a pass at the center of the field. Elysa Sandron made the convert to give the Dinos a 17-0 lead through 16 minutes.
It was all according to the game plan for Dinos Head Coach Simon Chi.
"For the last few games we have been working hard on starting strong," said Chi. "Basically we did that today."
After the Dinos' third try, UBC began finding success in its attack as the Thunderbirds broke into the Dinos half line multiple times. The pressure paid off in the 18th minute of the match as Delaney Aikens scored and Brooke Bazian converted to trim the Dinos' lead to 17-7.
After some consistent pressure by the T-Birds for the next few minutes, the Dinos broke through for another try when fourth-year fullback Sandron bolted from the half line to extend the Dinos' lead to 22-7. Minutes later, Sandron produced another strong run after a fantastic pass, to score back-to-back tries for the Dinos.
At the 38th minute, Samantha May pressed through the UBC defense to extend the Dinos' lead to 25 (32-7) heading into halftime.
The second half opened up with back and forth action, as both teams tried to take control of the action. Both teams battled hard in the rucks and mauls. UBC was able to get the first try of the second half when Madi Gold produced a strong run after she received the ball at the 22 metre line.
The Dinos responded five minutes later with a try after some nice passing from the back row players was capped off by a crisp pass from Ogunjimi to allow Menin to score the Dinos' seventh try of the match. Calgary added another try at the 70th minute after strong pressure in the rucks allowed Nikkita Bell to scoop up the ball to extend the Dinos' lead 42-12. Sandron added the convert to push the lead to 44-12.
"We came out as a team today ready to show everyone in Canada West and Canada that we are the team that is here to play and here to get back-to-back championships," said Sandron. "We did everything we could today to leave no doubt."
"We knew we didn't play our best games [last week] on the coast and we wanted to build," said Chi. "The girls just pushed each other to keep getting better as a team."
UBC head coach Maria Gallo was disappointed, but proud of her team's effort.
"Disappointed for the first half, I think we came out a little bit flat and dug a bit of a hole for ourselves which is hard to come out of," said Gallo. "But I'm really proud of their second half performance, we had some key vets that stepped up and did their job."
CGY – Sarah Thomas try, 3', 5-0 CGY
CGY – Temitope Ogunjimi try, 8', 10-0 CGY
CGY – DaLeaka Menin try (Elysa Sandron convert), 16', 17-0 CGY
UBC – Delaney Aikens try (Brooke Bazian convert), 18', 17-7 CGY
CGY – Elysa Sandron try, 21', 22-7 CGY
CGY – Elysa Sandron try, 28', 27-7 CGY
CGY – Samantha May try, 38', 32-7 CGY
UBC – Madi Gold try, 45', 32-12 CGY
CGY – DaLeaka Menin try, 50', 37-12 CGY
CGY – Nikkita Bell try (Elysa Sandron convert), 71', 44-12 CGY
Photo by David Moll