Missing four starting players, including national players Laura and Kelly Russell, Cowichan’s women’s rugby team got a star performance from a prospective Team Canada player in a 17-10 win at home over Burnaby Lake last Saturday.
Natasha Smith, who plays for the Maple Leafs national development side, scored all three of Cowichan’s tries in a come-from-behind victory, while national senior player Tyson Beukeboom added the other two points.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Cowichan veteran Sherry Spence said. “It’s premier rugby: everybody is going to have to step up their game every time we hit the pitch.”
With four starters missing from the scrum — including the team captain (Laura Russell) and an Olympic medallist (Kelly Russell) — several Cowichan players had to play out of position, and hooker Lenneke Vinoly moved up from the Div. 2 side for her first premier game.
Things all worked out great for Cowichan, but it didn’t start that way. Burnaby slotted a penalty goal and scored a converted try to go ahead 10-0 before Smith went over the line for her first try of the day, which Beukeboom converted. Smith’s two tries accounted for all the scoring in the second half as Cowichan surged ahead.
“It was a game of great teamwork,” Spence said. “Everyone did their jobs and made some huge runs and hits throughout the game.”
Ashley Smith played the match at tighthead prop, opposite a national player suiting up for Burnaby. The Burnaby player ended up picking Ashley Smith as player of the game in the forwards, while Natasha Smith earned the honour in the backs.
With the national team — including the Russell sisters and Beukeboom — heading to Ireland for a November tour to prepare for the 2017 Women’s World Cup, the rest of the Cowichan squad will head to Seattle this weekend to visit Seattle, which leads the B.C. Women’s Premiership.
The Cowichan men’s team will play host to Castaway Wanderers on Saturday at 12:45 p.m.