Cowichan ready to defend the title

The Cowichan Rugby Football Club’s senior women’s team held fast to a precarious four-point lead in the final moments of last Saturday’s provincial semifinal against Nanaimo, and will play this weekend to defend their provincial championship.

Cowichan was up 19-12 at halftime, but a handful of penalties allowed Nanaimo to make a second-half surge and go ahead 22-19.

"We knew at halftime that we just had to keep knocking them down, we could take the game," Cowichan captain Sherry Spence said. "We were the fitter team, even with a small bench; they had no bench. So that is what we did, but with that came penalties and Nanaimo was able to crash over the line two more times."

In the last 20 minutes however, Carolyn Gudmundseth and Rikki Wylie carried the ball over the line for two more tries, giving Cowichan a 33-22 edge. Nanaimo managed to score again just before the final whistle, but couldn’t get any closer than 33-29.

Gudmundseth finished with three tries, while Wylie and Laura Russell had one apiece, and Michelle Moore kicked four converts. Russell and Quinn Battie shared Player of the Game honours.

"It was closer then we would have liked," Spence admitted. "Nanaimo is a strong team and was in fourth place due to losing games due to a lack of players on game days. But on Saturday they had their full squad and they were ready to knock us off the top."

The defending provincial champions, Cowichan also won in 2012, and will be looking to add another title to their legacy.

Cowichan would have liked to face Nanaimo in the provincial final at Stanley Park’s Brockton Oval, but the draw didn’t work out that way, and their opponent will be United, who Cowichan beat 48-12 in the last regular-season game on April 25. Cowichan finished first in the regular season with a 7-0 record, while United was close behind at 6-1. "Even though we are in first place, we still have to travel to Vancouver for the B.C. finals," Spence said. "So we will have to shake the ferry legs right away because United will be in it to win. We can’t use our previous game against them as any sort of gauge on how they will be: it’s the B.C. finals."

The provincial final at Brockton Oval kicks off at 12:30 p.m.