Women’s Division 1 Final: United RFC 34 - Vancouver Thunderbirds 31
posted May 7 2017
from Dave Pearcey
The United RFC women earned their way into the final with a surprisingly decisive 46-10 win over a strong Abbotsford team at this same Exhibition Park only a week previously. The Vancouver (UBC) Thunderbirds claimed their place in the championship game with a 24-0 whitewash of the Meraloma club.
Entering league competition after the Christmas break, the ‘Birds won seven straight before recording their only loss in their final league match against United.
The United women had been rejuvenated this campaign by the return of a number of veteran players who had been away from the rugby pitch for some time. Both Stevi Schnoor (not Schooner as seen in the program) and Christina Bordignon had spent time playing semi-professional ladies seven-a-side football.
Dani Haaf had returned to the club after a number of years out of town. Kim Stockman was also back, spending a couple of years as an athletic trainer with Richmond RFC.
The match was as entertaining as one could want. The lead changed hands seven times.
The “Birds took advantage of space out wide to record the first try of the match, courtesy of fullback Ciara Malone. Malone is an incredible talent who has been seen in the Premier division wearing a Burnaby Lake jersey on more than one occasion. She would be a huge factor over the 80 minutes.
United concentrated on possession and made use of the hard running talents of their scrummers, namely Bordignon, Stockman, Haaf, and other veterans Brittany Frietag and Nicole Lyons.
Two tries gave United the lead. One after a clever kick into space by Schnoor. The other on a driving run by center Nicole Brenner. Taylor Einhorn converted one from within spitting distance of the touchline.
Malone would quickly answer back as she took the ball from well within her half to speed down the edge of the pitch and avoid the fullback to score between the posts. 12-12. United gained field possession and pounded at their opponent’s line until after 40 minutes had expired. Before a stoppage could occur to trigger the referee’s whistle, Brenner touched in the corner to give United a 17-12 lead at the half.
The second stanza saw a chance for the Coquitlam club to take command. Another insightful kick by Schnoor travelled diagonally towards the blue and gold’s tryline, with Einhorn easily beating her cover in an effort to retrieve and touch down. Unfortunately, the ball bounced that way instead of this way, and it landed into touch within metres of the line.
The defenders won the line-out, but United quickly won the ball back. A run at the line resulted in a turnover and the blue and gold quickly spun the ball wide and once again got it into the hands of their fullback. Malone again stretched the defence and motored the length of the pitch to ground under the posts. Her side now up 19-17 after the conversion. A potential deflating moment for the United ladies.
This seemed to be the truth, as the ‘Birds quickly found their way back deep into United territory and ran in one more try (by guess who???... Malone had her fourth on the day). Now 24-17 for the students.
But this was not the defining moment of the game. Now veteran Stevi Schnoor took control of her team and was determined to fight back. Those of us on the sidelines could see the fire in her eyes. She would not be denied.
The United women kept battering at the defence. Schnoor kept using her foot to gain advantage when possible. With Schnoor either the architect or the finisher, United scored twice to go up 27-24. Another outstanding conversion effort from the edge of the field by Einhorn hit the upright.
The last few moments of the match were a frenzy. United were forced to defend their tryline vigorously. Finally, Dani Haaf, likely playing her final ever game of rugby in the presence of her father, was yellow carded for an intentional knock-on. This was with 12 minutes left…. but as no timely stoppage would occur, she would remain off the pitch until the end.
It was now desperation time. With the club’s new President shouting continual encouragement from the sidelines, the 14 left fought back furiously. Another great effort saw United gain another turnover ball, but it was expertly stripped from the runner and an unidentified ‘Birds player charged hard through an unprepared defence to score under the posts. The convert made it 31-27, although the scoreboard did not record it [hey, I was there, they had 31!!!].
Less than 3 minutes left. United did not give up. I am sure that Stevi had lit a fire under every teammate. Good ball possession and tactical kicking saw the ball deep into the opposition end. An attempt to run the ball into safety failed, as the ball came loose and it was only fitting that Schnoor would take possession of the errant inflated elliptical and emphatically touch down under the crossbars. Einhorn made it 34-31.
The last dying moments saw United again desperately defending after the kick-off was allowed to bounce, giving their opponents possession deep in their territory.
Once again, turnovers were a factor as United regained the ball and hammered it into contact numerous times until zeroes showed on the field clock. With spectators shouting their always useful and sage advice, Schnoor cleared the ball into touch and the whistle confirmed another title for the maroon and royal blue.
Congratulations to coaches Steph Murphy and April Quinto.