Panthers clinch playoff berth with 56-19 win over Saint Mary’s

Photo by Janessa Vanden Broek
Photo by Janessa Vanden Broek

(CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I.) The UPEI Panthers punched their ticket to the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) playoffs after a convincing 56-19 win over the Saint Mary's Huskies. 

The Panthers (3-1) erupted for eight tries, three of which came from sophomore centre Ria Johnston, who had her best game in a UPEI uniform. Third-year fullback Charlotte Branchflower connected on all eight conversions, leading the team with 16 points. 

"With this being our last home of the (regular) season, we wanted to come out strong," Johnston said. "We had a good week of practice and all the hard work paid off today."

Coming into the game, UPEI had yet to score first, but Sunday was a different story. Not only did they score first, but they poured on the points in the early going. 

Rookie wing Alanna Mabey opened the scoring less than two minutes in when she burst onto an offload from flanker Emma MacLean for a run that started just outside the 22-metre line.

About three minutes later, Emily Duffy faked a pass to her right and bulled her about five yards for another converted try that put the Panthers ahead 14-0.

In the 11th minute, Johnston took a pass and weaved through a few Huskie defenders before touching down for the team's third try of the afternoon. 

Johnston was at it again in the 15th minute when she broke a couple tackles and raced 50 yards for her second try of the game to make it 28-0. 

Sarah Bain added another try in the 20th minute as she side-stepped two defenders before turning on the jets for an impressive 24-yard run. 

Johnston completed the first-half hat trick in the 31st minute when she picked up the loose ball about 30 yards out and burst through the line for the score, as the Panthers went into the break ahead big, 42-0. 

"We wanted to score first and get ourselves on the front foot and feel good about ourselves," said Panthers head coach James Voye. "We did many great things today and then we went away from that in the second half."

The second half was a different tale, as the Huskies (4-0) outscored the Panthers 21-14. In the opening minute, Hope Angevine took a pass on the left wing and ran about 15 yards for Saint Mary's first score.

UPEI's Olivia McLeod got that try back by forcing her way past the goal line in the 58th minute to make it 49-5.

The Huskies cut the deficit to 49-12 in the 68th minute on a try from Katherine Fairbrother where she grabbed the ball from a ruck and went in untouched from five yards out.

MacLean added her team-leading fourth try of the year on a maul in the 71st minute to make it 56-12. Huskie Claire Avery then closed out the scoring with the team's third try of the game for the 56-19 final. 

After the game, Voye said he's still searching for that complete 80-minute effort from his squad, and he's hoping they'll find it soon as they take on Acadia and St. FX on the road in the next two weeks with playoff seeding yet to be decided.

"We're going to continue to focus on the areas of the game that worked for us today and try to sustain that success for a full 80 minutes."


Recap courtesy of Thomas Becker/UPEI Athletics

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