WOLFVILLE, N.S. (U SPORTS) – In a game that was every bit as close as the final score would suggest, Michaela Haley scored the winning try in injury time and the Ottawa Gee-Gees claimed a come from behind 20-19 victory over Laval in the bronze medal match of the U SPORTS Women's Rugby Championship.
The defending champion Gee-Gees shrugged off a 15-12 semifinal loss to Guelph to turn in a strong overall team effort against a determined Laval squad.
The Rouge et Or started strong and claimed the early lead on a try by Anais Gilbert at the 6:37 mark. Véronique Gagné's successful conversion staked Laval to a 7-0 first-half lead.
Despite positive yardage gained by both teams, there was no further scoring until Tori Wyman got Ottawa on the board, scoring a try at 31:14. The convert attempt failed, leaving Laval still in the lead at halftime, but only by a slim 7-5 margin.
After the intermission, Laval again started strong and was again rewarded with an early try, with Maria-Elena Espi Fournier scoring at 43:41. Gagné's successful conversion increased Laval's advantage to 14-5.
Ottawa, however, refused to let the deficit rattle them. Moving down the field, the defending champs scored a try by Emily Gray at 48:17. The conversion attempt failed, but the Gee-Gees were back to within four at 14-10.
Ottawa continued to apply pressure, and the Gee-Gees were rewarded again when Paulina Karwowski scored a try at 56:28. Again, the conversion attempt failed, but Ottawa had its first lead of the afternoon, albeit a slim one at just 15-14.
Laval continued to apply offensive pressure, getting on a roll and ending up scoring its third try of the game by Nele Pien. The conversion attempt failed, but Laval was back in the lead, 19-15.
It looked like the Rouge et Or might hold on for victory, but as they had in their quarterfinal against host Acadia, the Gee-Gees again caught late-game lightning in a bottle, marching down the field and scoring the winning try courtesy of Haley at 82:57.
The conversion attempt failed, but the try allowed Ottawa to once again take the lead, 20-19. Time ran out on Laval, and the Gee-Gees claimed the bronze medal by the slimmest of margins.
Speaking after the match, Ottawa Player of the Game Emily Gray acknowledged bronze was not necessarily the colour of medal the defending-champion Gee-Gees were looking for.
"We had come in on top, but a win on the final day is a win in my books," she said.
Gray noted that the Gee-Gees "tend to be a second-half team." Even though they "played well both halves" against Laval, Ottawa "closed things up well" with a trademark strong finish.
"It was a bit of a wake-up call when they scored their late try, but our leaders stepped up and got the job done," she added.
Gray pointed out that Ottawa had nine rookies in the tournament and is only losing four players to graduation or via the end of their U SPORTS eligibility. Gray herself has completed four years at Ottawa, and is already "planning to be back" for another quest at national gold next fall.
LA V– Anais Gilbert try (Veronique Gagne conversion good) 6:37 OTT 0 LAV 7
OTT – Tori Wyman try (conversion attempt failed) 31:14 OTT 5 LAV 7
LAV – Maria-Elena Espi Fournier try (Veronique Gagne conversion good) 43:41 OTT 5 LAV 14
OTT – Emily Gray try (conversion attempt failed) 48:17 OTT 10 LAV 14
OTT – Paulina Karwowski try (conversion attempt failed) 56:28 OTT 15 LAV 14
LAV – Nele Pien try (conversion attempt failed) 69:13 OTT 15 LAV 19
OTT – Michaela Haley try (conversion attempt failed) 82:57 OTT 20 LAV 19
Players of the game
OTT: Emily Gray
LAV: Catherine Martineau