Cameryn Meloche and her Dawson Blues rugby squad fought from kickoff to whistle Sunday upsetting the previously undefeated John Abbott Islanders in an intense, tightly contested game including two very talented teams.(Daniel J. Rowe The Eastern Door)
Defence wins championships. It’s a cliché coaches tell players in all sports, and rarely does it prove untrue.
The Dawson College Blues proved the adage right Sunday afternoon against the John Abbott Islanders on the women’s home turf, and nabbed a championship for the Montreal school.
Dawson coach Kaneb Uphill said a week before the final game of the RSEQ season that his Blues squad was going to have to have a “really good defensive game” if his team was going to upset the Islanders, a team with a perfect record to that point with a 222-29 points margin.
The Blues women dug in from the start.
“We all went in with the mentality to just lay it all out there on the line and do absolutely whatever it took to win,” said second row forward Cameryn Meloche from Kahnawake.
Meloche and the Blues scrum pushed hard, fast and early, and squeezed a ball over the line, but were unable to place it down fairly and had to try again.
Side note for those who know nothing about rugby: to score, a player must place the ball on the ground past the end zone line for a try worth five points.
The second time around Dawson swung the ball wide to the wings, and collectively got the ball over the line for the first score of the game.
After the two-point conversion, Dawson played composed and relaxed and kept the Islanders off the score sheet for the remainder of the half.
“It was really nerve-wracking (at first), but once we got started and got that first try early in the game, it really helped us loosen up and then just continue playing solid defence for the rest of the game,” said Meloche.
Meloche, as in the semi-final, was subbed off at half, and had to watch anxiously as Abbott pushed and pushed.
Abbott came within inches of putting the ball down in the second half on three occasions, but Dawson always had an answer.
“Definitely,” said Meloche when asked if it was hard to come out of the game at half. “It’s a lot more stressful to watch because you have no control of the situation. When you’re out there on the field you’re just translating all those nerves into adrenaline and going as hard as you can.
“Being on the sidelines, there’s nothing you can do, and you’re just stuck there hoping that things go in your favour.”
Alongside Meloche on the sidelines was winger Journey Jacobs, playing in her rookie season with the Blues.
“I was extremely nervous,” said Jacobs, who didn’t see any playing time, but learnt throughout the season more about playing rugby at a higher level with a quality team from Dawson.
“I’ve learned how to be a unit with my team whether it was on the field or not,” said Jacobs. “These girls are my friends now, and we hangout often, which is carried onto the field. In high school (at Billings), I would have maybe three other girls I could work with, and here it was the whole team.”
The seconds ticked away for the Islanders in the second half, and the game was stopped three times after Abbott players were injured and needed stretchers before the game could resume.
Meloche admitted that it’s hard to watch girls needing medical attention, and that the stoppages in play means losing valuable momentum that may have been gained.
“It delays the game a lot, which makes it hard to stay focused,” she said.
After a sustained period of pressure from John Abbott, Dawson again scored courtesy of the wing, and had a 12-0 lead with few minutes remaining.
Jacobs returned to the field briefly to bring the tee for the kicker, who missed the conversion.
Dawson held, and took the title handing Abbott its first loss of the season.
“It was surreal to be out there in a final,” said Meloche reflecting on the win in front of around 200 fans of both teams.
The victory, for Jacobs, was a true team effort.
“I’ve been on tight-linked teams, but nothing compared to this,” she said.
In winning Dawson avenges last season’s 25-3 loss to John Abbott in the finals, and snaps the Islanders 15-game win streak.
Dawson’s men were not so lucking losing 38-7 in the final game to, yep, John Abbott.