Panthers win first-ever AUS championship with 33-12 victory over Acadia

Photo: Peter Oleskevich
Photo: Peter Oleskevich

(WOLFVILLE, N.S.) The UPEI Panthers are AUS champions for the first time in UPEI rugby’s history after handing the host Acadia Axewomen a 33-12 loss. 

The Panthers posted 21 unanswered points in the second half while limiting the quick attack of the Axewomen. 

Tied at 12-12 at the half, the Panthers played their gritty, physical game as the rain began to become a factor in keeping control of the ball. 

“We attempted to play a little on the outside zone—the wings. The game plan today was to run our system, but not to run it to force offloads and force passes that are not there. It was just about having ball security and possession and still working side to side while doing that. And it paid off,” said head coach James Voye following the game. Voye was named the AUS Coach of the Year earlier this week. 

Axewoman Katya Dondi (Caledon, ON) kicked off the scoring with an unconverted try at the seven-minute mark of the match. The Panthers responded 12 minutes later when Nicole Davies (Stratford, P.E.I.) took it upon herself to plow her way in for UPEI’s first of five tries. 

The Panthers struck again in the 26th minute when Carla Stewart (Crapaud, P.E.I.) stretched out for the try that would give UPEI their first game lead. Frances MacWilliam (Mill River East, P.E.I.) converted the try. 

With less than seven minutes remaining in the opening half, Sara Grant (Melrose, N.B.) scored what would be Acadia’s last points. Grant would convert her own try. 

AUS MVP Brinten Comeau (Halifax, N.S.) scored the first of 21 UPEI points in the second half on a maul that eventually had her cross the try line. Comeau’s try would be converted by MacWilliam. 

UPEI’s physical dominance continued into the later stages of the second half. 

In the 65th minute, Frances MacWilliam posted a try and converted it after seeing a hole in the Acadia defense and shot the gap for the Panther’s fourth try. 

Mia Fradsham (Marshfield, P.E.I.) posted UPEI’s last try of the game in the 76th minute and converted by MacWilliam for the championship win. 

MacWilliam, who posted four conversions and one try, was named the Subway AUS Rugby Championship game MVP, while Axewoman Kenzie Cecchetto (Newport, N.S.) was honoured as Acadia’s player of the game. 

Following the game, MacWilliam was asked what was said at halftime that inspired the team to push out to a 21-point lead. 

“Just ball security. We wanted to be first there to support a player. They had a few poaches against us in the first half, and we lost control. I think we did a much better job in the second half and it showed on the scoreboard,” said MacWilliam. 

Both the Axewomen and UPEI will travel to Victoria, B.C. for the U SPORTS women's rugby national championship that begins next Wednesday, November 2. 

-Recap courtesy of Acadia Athletics

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