UBC Women’s Rugby Wins Third Consecutive Canada West Championship Title
The UBC women’s rugby team defeated the University of Victoria Vikes 24-12 in the Canada West (CW) final in Edmonton over the weekend to become three-time CW champions.
The team’s success began in 2019 when the ‘Birds capitalized on their best regular season record of 3-2. In the semifinals, they narrowly defeated the University of Victoria Vikes, before facing the University of Calgary Dinos in the final. Current Thunderbirds Rachel Smith and Shoshanah Seumanutafa were part of UBC’s first-ever championship-winning team in 2019.
After a canceled 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 season saw a ‘Birds team hungry for a second title. They finished their season with a perfect 5-0 record, going undefeated in the regular season and playoffs to make them back-to-back CW champions.
Heading into the 2022 season with 23 players returning to this year’s roster, 11 being two-time champions, UBC was a force to be reckoned with. They were favorites in the coaching poll, and after their season it’s easy to see why.
The Thunderbirds topped their season with a home win over the Vikes before eliminating the Dinos 41-0. They continued to win high-scoring games, scoring 12 tries against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns and 13 against the University of Alberta Pandas.
The only scratch on the record was a 31–31 draw against the Vikes where the ‘Birds were unable to hold their lead in the final 20 minutes. Despite the result, UBC still finished first in the division.
The Thunderbirds’ first hurdle to a three-round CW Championship was the semifinal matchup against the host Pandas.
Alberta were a force, but after two minutes UBC’s Alayna Scramstad scored. Savannah Bauder pulled off a conversion to put the ‘Birds up 7–0. Shortly after, Bauder added seven more points with a switch play and a good convert. The Thunderbirds then found their groove, scoring four tries in ten minutes. The Pandas fought back and eventually got a try, making it 47-5 before halftime.
The second half saw the T-Birds score three more tries, while the Pandas could only get one. When the whistle sounded at Foote Field, the 64-12 score meant UBC were once again heading to the final.
This year’s championship final was identical to last year’s – the Thunderbirds defending their CW title against rivals the Vikes.
Tensions were high on the pitch, as evidenced by the fast-paced and physical nature of the game. UBC held the ball to start but couldn’t cross the try line until Seumanutafa broke through in the 15th minute. A successful convert gave the T-Birds a 7-0 lead.
The Vikes pushed back with a few good chances, but the ‘Birds kept them off the scoreboard. After a scrum, the speed of Piper Logan and Seumanutafa gave Bauder a scoring chance, and she added seven more points to UBC’s tally. The score remained 14-0 until halftime.
After the half, UVic dominated possession and they pushed the ball over the goal line, putting themselves on the board. The momentum swung between the two teams until Bauder took advantage of a gap in the Vikes defense. His speed allowed him to dodge opponents, running 50 yards to score. His conversion hit the post and rebounded, but still increased their lead to 24-5.
The Vikes bounced back with less than ten minutes left in the game, managing to score and go 24-12, but it wasn’t enough to make a comeback.
The skies were overcast as the game ended, but that couldn’t dampen the smiles of the Thunderbirds as they became The CW Champions for the third straight year.
The Thunderbirds also topped the CW awards. Seven UBC players – Bauder, Logan, Scramstad, Seumanutafa, Smith, Rori Wood and Jordan McLeod – received all-star awards, and UBC head coach Dean Murten won the coach award for CW. Seumanutafa was also named MVP.
After the awards and medals, Scramstad went to receive the trophy. She held it up in front of her team, who burst into joy and crowded around her, all holding the trophy above their heads.
The Thunderbirds will work for their first national title in the U Sports Women’s Rugby Championships, hosted by the University of Victoria, from November 2.