NDSS Golden Hawks rugby girls blank KSS Bears to win KASSAA league title

NDSS' Meg Miller breaks free from the pack to gain ground during the KASSAA rugby championships, held May 24 at Kingston's Nixon Field. Photo by Adam Prudhomme.

Adam Prudhomme

Persistence paid off for the NDSS Golden Hawk girls’ rugby team, who captured the KASSAA championship with a 29-0 win over the Kingston Secondary School Bears at Queen’s Nixon Field on Wednesday.

Early in the match Napanee had several runs that came up just short of the try-line, halted by either a knock-on or penalty. Undeterred, the Hawks continued to press the issue and were finally rewarded with that first try. Once on the board the floodgates were opened and NDSS built a comfortable 17-0 lead at the half. The offense continued to shine in the second half with four more tries.

Scorers for the game were Brooklyn Alaver, Lila Pringle, Meg Miller, Marley Lambert and Maeve Kennedy.  Neeleigh-Raye Ford and Lila Pringle each kicked a convert.

NDSS’ Claire McConnell attempts to avoid a tackle during Wednesday’s KASSAA league finals. Photo by Adam Prudhomme.

“In the last few weeks especially as they found their comfort level, we’ve talked a lot about being comfortable building pressure,” said Hawks head coach Sean Dunleavy. “I think after some of the games where we’ve been able to score a lot they get this sense of ‘oh my goodness we have to score now.’ I think we really need to applaud their ability to take a breath and be a little more purposeful with the ball and I think you could see that. You could see the nerves early in the game with the knock ons and some of the excitement of the moment getting to them, but I think as they settled in then it started to roll.”

NDSS’ Lila Pringle dives across the try-line to score during the KASSAA league finals. Photo by Adam Prudhomme.

Napanee came into the game as the top seed after going 6-0 in the regular season. Though they would be considered the favourites, their whole season came down to a winner-take-all where a few breaks here and there could determine the league championship.

“I was impressed with their ability to play with intensity and play quick but also to have control of the game and not panicking in terms of we’re going to score, it’ll come,” said Dunleavy. “I’m really proud of that and I think defensively it’s been something that we’ve been proud of all season, minimize the chances for the other team. I thought our tackling was pretty ferocious with lots of pressure off the line and stayed in control. We bent a few times but didn’t quite break.”

With a comfortable lead the Hawks were able to get 30 players into the game-a testament to their depth as they were still able to clinch the shutout.

For Napanee the KASSAA girls’ rugby title was the school’s first since 2019-though a good chunk of the years in between were interrupted by the pandemic. This particular core of players is made up mostly of Grade 10s and 11s, meaning they’ll have a solid foundation in place for the next couple of seasons.

On Monday the Hawks will take on La Salle in the EOSSAA title game with little on the line save for seeding for the provincial championships. Both teams have qualified for OFSAA, which will take place June 3-5 in Bolton.

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