The Harry Collinge High School girls senior 7s rugby team rolled to a zone championship May 27 in Thorsby and punched their ticket to the inaugural Alberta Schools Athletic Association (ASAA) provincial championships this coming week in St. Albert.
And while this is the first-ever sanctioned provincial tournament in 7s rugby, the road to the championships has been a long one for an experienced Harry Collinge team.
“These girls have been working hard for years to get to where they are. They are all strong athletes, and I feel lucky to be able to work with them. This is a great step for our program, and will hopefully encourage other students to take up the sport in the years to follow,” said coach Rebecca Turnbull.
Harry Collinge opened zones with a close win against host Thorsby, a team that Turnbull said has made massive strides in their first season. The second game was against Drayton Valley, a contest where Turnbull said the squad needed to properly ruck – a term used to describe when the ball is on the ground and the opponents battle over the ball for possession.
“When they did, they were able to come out on top,” said Turnbull.
“Both teams that the girls were playing against here had significantly less experience than our girls, and ultimately that was the difference.”
As has been the case all season, the Harry Collinge squad continued to improve through the day, despite having a relatively small lineup that doesn’t allow for a lot of subbing. That was even more of a challenge at zones, where the squad dealt with a hot day and little breeze leading up to the final against Thorsby.
“We were lucky with the schedule in this tournament, as we had ample time to recover in between games, which was often not true for our opponents,” Turnbull said.
“The Thorsby team had played more recently than we did, so we had fresh legs, but we needed to overcome being out of the ‘swing of things’ and back into the rugby frame of mind.”
Harry Collinge rolled over Thorsby in the final, with coach saying that the squad did all the little things well, adapted to the other team’s strengths and played to their own strengths when possible.
“Our back core (fly half, centre, and wing) were careful to ensure that they were always on a side of the field where they had the opportunity to break away. They did a lot of running in this game, and scored many tries throughout,” Turnbull said.
Provincials will take place May 31 – June 1 at the St. Albert Rugby Club and according to the latest schedule published on the ASAA site Harry Collinge will have its first match at 11:40 am against St. Andre Bessette out of Edmonton. The squad closes out round robin play at 3:25 pm against JC Charyk from the South Central Zone.
The top-ranked squad from that pool gets a bye into the semi-finals at 12:05 pm.
The championship and bronze medal games will both be played at 1:55 pm on Saturday.