UBC women’s rugby takes 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) finals in Edmonton this weekend, becoming three-time CW champions.

The team's success started in 2019 when the ‘Birds capitalized on their program-best regular season record of 3–2. In the semi-finals, they narrowly defeated the University of Victoria Vikes, before facing the University of Calgary Dinos in the finals. Current Thunderbirds Rachel Smith and Shoshanah Seumanutafa were on UBC’s first-ever championship-winning team in 2019.

After a cancelled 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.

Coming into the 2022 season with 23 returning players on this year’s roster, 11 being two-time champions, UBC was a force to be reckoned with. They were the Coaches Poll favourite, and after their season, it’s easy to see why.

The Thunderbirds dominated their season with a home win against the Vikes before shutting out the Dinos 41–0. They went on to continue winning 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 tie against the Vikes where the ‘Birds couldn’t hold their lead in the last 20 minutes. Despite the result, UBC still finished first in the division.

Fourth-year fullback Kally King in the CW finals.
Fourth-year fullback Kally King in the CW finals. Don Voaklander / UAlberta Athletics

The Thunderbirds’s first obstacle to a three-peat CW Championship was the semi-final game against the hosting Pandas.

Alberta was a force, but two minutes in, UBC’s Alayna Scramstad scored. Savannah Bauder made a successful conversion to put the ‘Birds up 7–0. Soon 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 finally got a try, making the score 47–5 before the half.

The second half saw the T-Birds score three more tries, while the Pandas could only make one. When the whistle rang out across Foote Field, the 64–12 score meant UBC was headed to the finals again.

This year’s championship final looked identical to last year’s — the Thunderbirds defending their CW title against their rivals, the Vikes.

Tensions were high on the pitch, evident by the fast and physical nature of the game. UBC held possession to start but couldn’t get past 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 held them off the scoreboard. After a scrum, speed by Piper Logan and Seumanutafa gave Bauder a chance to score, 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. Momentum shifted back and forth between the two teams until Bauder capitalized on a gap in the Vikes’ defense. Her speed allowed her to dodge the opponents, running over 50 metres to score. Her conversion hit the post and bounced out, but still increased their lead to 24–5.

The Vikes rebounded with less than ten minutes left in the game, managing to score and make it 24–12, but it wasn’t enough to make a comeback.

Third-year fly half Savannah Bauder in the 2022 CW finals.
Third-year fly half Savannah Bauder in the 2022 CW finals. Don Voaklander / UAlberta Athletics

The skies were overcast when the game ended, but it couldn’t dim the Thunderbirds’s smiles as they became CW champions for the third consecutive year.

The Thunderbirds also dominated 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 coaching award for CW. Seumanutafa was also named MVP.

After awards and medals, Scramstad went to receive the trophy. She held it up to her team, who erupted in cheers and rallied around her, all holding the trophy above their heads.

The Thunderbirds will work towards their first national title in the U Sports Women’s Rugby Championships, hosted by the University of Victoria, beginning on November 2.