Day one of the National Women's League Finals saw 12 teams competing at UBC in the opening rounds of the National Women's League Finals, a competition featuring the highest level of domestic women's rugby in Canada.
In the Tier One semifinals, Alberta upset defending champions BC to advance to the gold medal match. The fourth-seeded Albertans will have to produce another stunning performance on Sunday if they look to topple the Ontario Storm, who downed Quebec 57-22 in the other seminal match on Thursday.
Semifinal 1: Alberta 17, British Columbia 16
The fourth-seeded Alberta senior women's provincial team narrowly defeated the Tier One reigning champs British Columbia, scoring a pivotal try in the second half to down the hosts 17-16.
BC led early on through tries from Kim Donaldson and Jess Dovanne but Alberta had the answers with strong running converted into tries by Ash MacDonald and Brittany Ore. After BC centre Andrea Burk successfully kicked two penalties, BC had some breathing room carrying a 16-10 lead into the final 20 minutes.
The hosts failed to score on a number of scoring opportunities, however, and a relentless Alberta attack resulted in Jenn Kish eventually going over for a crucial try for a 16-15 score line. Laura Murhpy-Burke stepped up and slotted home the conversion to see Alberta through to the Tier One final for the first time since the National Women's League tournament was restructured in 2007.
"It doesn't get much tighter than that," said Alberta's assistant coach Matt Parrish. "That was a great comeback for us. Our girls have worked hard for it this year and it's great that they have a chance to now play for the gold."
For BC head coach Jason Young, a one-point differential was hard to swallow for his players that will now play for bronze. "That game really could hove gone either way," Young said after the final whistle. "Credit to Alberta because they really took it to us. We had a number of scoring chances that we didn't capitalize on. Their back row was especially strong and I thought they had a huge impact on the game."
The hosts BC will now play for bronze against Quebec on Sunday, July 3rd while Alberta advances to the national title game against Ontario on Sunday at 12:30pm.
Semifinal 2: Ontario 57, Quebec 22
The Ontario Senior Women's provincial team known as the 'Storm', advanced to their sixth straight national title match after downing Quebec 57-22 in the semifinal round of the National Women's League Tier One competition.
Canadian international and Ontario speedster Cheryl Phillips was a commanding force throughout the match, leading all scorers on the day with 15 points, through a try and five conversions.
"Cheryl had a great game," said Ontario head coach Sandro Fiorino. "She performed at both 10 and 15, she saw the field well and she saw the gaps and went for them."
Ontario recorded nine tries with Kelly and Laura Russell each crossing over, as well as Asya Bartlety, Gizelle Panton, Sarah Van Hoog, Natalie Tam, Natasha Turner and Megan Gibbs. Misha Maric tacked on the conversion to round out the scoring.
Quebec's offence was led by Magali Harvey who notched a try and conversion for seven points. Elizibeth Majeau and Elie Papineau also crossed over.
"You have to give credit to Quebec because they came out and played well," added Fiorino. "We didn't play a complete game as a lot of our players are fresh off of playing sevens rugby, but we are looking forward to the final against Alberta on Sunday."