ALMA — Members of the Northumberland Nighthawks girls’ rugby team have experienced the reward from struggle that can lead to ultimate triumph.
The Nighthawks reversed the demise of their counterparts on the NRHS boys’ side by capturing the Rugby Nova Scotia Division II senior girls’ championship last Saturday in Windsor. The RNS designation replaces the high school reference after the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation stopped sanctioning rugby and handed the sport’s responsibilities over to RNS.
K.J. Emery, Gabby Smith and Jesse Maxner each scored a try and Kaelyn Vint added two converts as the Nighthawks defeated the Dartmouth Spartans 19-5 in the championship game.
The win came in the Nighthawks’ first provincial appearance after years of regular-season and playoff setbacks.
“It was amazing,” Abby Hendsbee said. “We pushed ourselves really hard.”
Fellow forward co-captain Lydia Tobin said the team proved its worth.
“After four years of just being put down from every team, it’s good to win, so rewarding to build the bonds and win together,” she said.
“I found it extremely exciting, being put a team that was always put down and having a huge win in my graduating year,” Haley Ingemansen said. “We’re super strong together.”
The Nighthawks went unbeaten in their four games that included defeating the Central Kings Gators 21-12 and Dartmouth 5-0 in their preliminary matches.
The Nighthawks defeated West Kings to advance to the final.
“It was definitely rewarding,” fellow backfield co-captain Kaelyn Vint said. “It was a great season and winning the provincial championship was the icing.”
Vint also had high praise for Graham Hayden in his first year coaching the girls.
“He was great,” she said.”He taught us a lot of new systems and once we got our systems down it was great.”
Hayden said the girls deserve credit for working hard to prepare for and play high quality rugby and defeating the top seeds from the Capital and Western regions. Many of them are tasting victory for the first time, he said.
“It feels pretty good,” he said. “I knew going in what this team could do if they stuck to the game plan. Some of them have never won anything, so for them to go out and win for the love of the game, this is amazing.”
Both of Northumberland’s and North Nova’s teams played in the provincials last weekend.
The Citadel Phoenix from Halifax defeated North Nova in the Division I girls’ final, while host Avon View topped Dartmouth in the boys’ final.
The Sir John A. Macdonald Flames, North Nova and the defending boys champions from Northumberland finished the round robin in their pool with 1-1 records, but the tie-breaking formula allowed the Flames and Gryphons into the semifinals.
North Nova lost a close game to Dartmouth in their match.
The Nighthawks were trying for their second straight provincial championship after winning a qualifying match on May 28 in Alma.
Justin MacLennan scored two tries and converted all three of them, including one by Gavin Bourque, as the Nighthawks defeated Kings-Edgehill 21-12.
Northumberland was forced into the qualifier after North Nova defeated them 15-10 in Alma to win the Northumberland Regional championship.
From left: forward co-captains Abby Hendsbee and Lydia Tobin hold the Division II provincial senior girls’ championship banner with backfield co-captains Kaelyn Vint and Haley Ingemansen. (Goodwin photo)