Jeff Danis Photo
The Harry Collinge High School Rockies senior girls 7s rugby squad battled injury, a short bench, and a smoky haze to earn a silver medal at the ASAA provincial championships.
Coach Rebecca Turnbull called it a proud end to a long, hard two days of competition. One parent described the players as warriors.
“Their goals were to play the game their way and to leave it all on the field,” Turnbull said.
“They came together as a team and supported each other out on the field, which is so important in a sport like rugby.”
The Rockies only lost to one team at the provincials – J. C. Charyk out of Hanna – including a decisive 25-5 loss in the second game of the round robin. The loss came on the heels of an opening 33-5 win over Andre Bessette out of Fort Saskatchewan that showcased the Rockies team speed and experience.
Turnbull said there were a couple factors in play in the loss to J. C. Charyk, including a four-hour break after their opening game and what she called terrible air quality for the game due to heavy smoke drifting into the Edmonton area from Alberta’s wildfires.
The squad was disheartened by the loss, but Turnbull said the Rockies turned their attention to what they needed to do different the following day.
“We spent some time talking out what had happened on the field and working through some of the issues that we saw that were present and the girls were able to relax that night in preparation for the medal rounds on Saturday,” said the coach.
There was a time when it seemed that the tournament may be cancelled due to air quality issues, but Turnbull said instead organizers put some protocols into place and proceeded with caution throughout the day.
“They also condensed the day to try to ensure that all games were completed before the day had to end,” she said.
Harry Collinge opened the medal round against a familiar foe in Thorsby High School in what was a hard-fought 27-15 win.
“It is always nerve wracking to play teams that know you since they know your strengths and weaknesses and can adjust ahead of time,” Turnbull said.
The next game was the semifinals about an hour later, against Olds, which Turnbull described as another tiring battle that ended with a 24-10 win for Harry Collinge that set up a rematch against J. C. Charyk.
“The girls were already so tired, but they knew that they could play better than they did the (previous) night,” said Turnbull.
Battered, bruised and without captain Micah Scott, whose tournament ended earlier with an injury, Harry Collinge didn’t do themselves any favours in the final by falling behind by two scores at the half.
But the squad’s spirits were high in the second half as they queued up a comeback they couldn’t quite pull off. The squad had the ball in the closing minute, but couldn’t push through for a score and dropped a 22-19 final.
“Our sights are set on next year, and we’re already thinking of ways to prepare for continued success next season,” Turnbull said.