U16 Girls Jr. Blues Return Home After Successful UK Tour

November 18, 2019


U16 Girls Jr. Blues Return Home After Successful UK Tour


November 13th, 2019

(WHITBY, ON) -  The Ontario Jr. Blues U16 Girls squad have returned from their 10-day tour of England. Over the course of the trip, the team played three matches against U18 Academy sides from all over England!

To begin the tour, the team was stationed at Hartpury Academy for six days. During that time, the team received coaching from the staff at Hartpury and took on the U18 Hartpury Academy side in a controlled scrimmage. The players and coaches also took in TWO professional matches, seeing the London Scottish face off against Hartpury and Gloucester take on the Saracens.

After six fantastic days of great training, the Ontario Girls U16 Squad traveled to the Ivybridge Rugby Football Club in southwest England to take on the Exeter Chiefs Academy U18’s. Despite the heavy rain throughout the match, the facility could not have been more impressive. A brand new 4G Pitch constructed by the RFU, situated in a beautiful setting with a state-of-the-art clubhouse, made for a great venue for the second test match.

The Blues started out tentatively in the first 10 minutes. Exeter had excellent line speed and put the Blues under a great deal of pressure. A turn-over ball at the Blues 10-metre line was turned into a quick counter by the Chiefs resulting in an electric score from their #13 (the first of three tries for an obvious future England prospect). Chiefs-7 Ontario-0. 

This was the wake-up call the Ontario girls needed. For the rest of the first half, the dominant Ontario forwards began to take the ball at pace. The Chiefs line-speed began to slow down, and the Blues exploited the space. The pressure was rewarded with two beautiful tries by eight-man Aleisha Rose and a conversion by Paige DeNeve that put the Blues ahead at half-time 12-7.

The second half saw the Blues insert 11 new players as it was the “finishers” turn to take on the Chiefs. The pace and intensity of the game was at a high level in the first half and the second half was no different. The Chiefs came out flying led by their outstanding outside centre and a dynamic fly-half who kept the Blues on their heels with some excellent tactical kicking. The Chiefs were rewarded with two tries in a 10-minute span. Chiefs17 Blues-12.

Now it was the Blues turn. With 7 minutes left in the game, a dynamic 8 to 9 to 15 to wing blind side movement off a scrum took the Blues inside the Chiefs 10m line. From here, Prop Janet Kennedy powered through numerous tacklers only to be brought down at the 1-yard line just to the left of the goal post. Kennedy reached for the goal line….and scored! Or so the Blues thought. DOUBLE MOVEMENT. A 19-17 lead was instead a penalty kick awarded to Exeter. The Chiefs hammered it quickly down the field where they gathered it in, spun it wide to #13 who finished in the corner. Chiefs 24 Blues 12.

The last 2 minutes of the game saw the Blues empty the tank, only to come up short. A final try off a Blues turnover by Exeter at the whistle was the final nail in the coffin: Final Score: Exeter Chiefs U18: 24, Ontario Blues U16: 12.

“Our Defensive organization and line-speed put the Chiefs under a great deal of pressure today. As our ability to make one-up tackles improves, the overall team defense will be very formidable.” said coach Damien Benedict.

The final game on tour saw the Ontario U16 Girls Team travel to Bristol to take on SGS Filton School U-18 which is the Bristol Bears Rugby Academy. It was an early morning kick-off (10:30 am) but the team was very excited for the match. The Exeter game on Wednesday was a very good performance and the players were keen to build on it. Thursday’s training and video session focused on areas for continued improvement, specifically, attack pattern and defensive line-speed. 

On arrival at Bristol, the “Blues” were met off the bus by former Rugby Canada High Performance Manager Gethin Watt who is now in a similar roll with the Bristol Bears as their Academy Director. “It was brilliant that Gethin took the time out of his busy schedule to hook up with the squad” stated HP Manager Paul Connelly. “Gethin made a big impact with our High- Performance programs in Canada. Rugby Ontario has implemented many of the initiatives that he started with our National U-20 program, specifically the 150 supervised training sessions per year and a greater commitment to overall game fitness.”

The multi-sport training facility at SGS Fiton is world class. All of Bristol’s top sporting athletes train at one site including basketball, soccer and American football. The game started off in a very similar manner to Wednesday’s match against Exeter with the Bears coming out flying. Massive pressure and big hits resulted in turn-over ball with the Bears scoring a quick try after only five minutes. Bears-5 Blues-0

The next 15 minutes displayed the most intense rugby of the tour. Both teams were flying up on defense, big hits, and multiple double tackles with the occasional line break. It was uncompromising. At this point, the game changed. The Ontario Blues began to assert themselves as they attacked the line with more pace, focusing on hard lines and off-loads. The dynamic nature of their play took away the Bears line-speed which resulted in some dynamic rugby. After a nine-phase movement, the Blues were rewarded with an outstanding try under the posts. Blues-7 Bears-5

The first half ended with the Blues knocking on the goal line only to come up short. For the second time on tour, the Blues went into half-time with the lead.

The second half brought much of the same. As Ontario went to their bench with 12 “Impact Subs”, the improvement in all levels of play was evident. By training and competing against such a high quality of opposition over the past 8 days, the “Blues” had absolutely taken their game to another level. “There’s no secrets here” stated Connelly. “We need to have our best play against the best in the world on a consistent basis. By establishing partnerships with professional academies here, we can make this happen.”

The final Score was the Bristol Bears 22, the Ontario Jr. Blues 7. 

“So proud of all of our players” stated Ontario U-18 coach Mark Smerden. “I really look forward to these athletes moving up to the Provincial U18 program next summer. With a major focus on S&C and core skill development during the winter, the sky is really the limit for these players. I hope we have another crack at these same teams next summer.”

“To see how far these athletes have progressed since the start of last summer is truly amazing” stated Ontario U16 Coach Damien Benedict. “When you bring together some of the top players from Eastern Ontario with the Central/Western Ontario athletes, it makes for one heck of a squad. I look forward to watching their continued development.”

With the hard work completed, it was time to really have some fun. What better way than to visit Twickenham, the home of England Rugby. A quick “tube” ride got the team to the park nice and early. As always, the “Blues” started in the Shop (the British Economy has seen a massive up tic this past week, especially in sales of cool rugby kit) as all England World Cup kit was drastically reduced (result base?). It was then into the Rugby Museum for a tour. If you have not been to the Rugby Museum in the last few years, it is definitely worth visiting. Extremely interactive. Hi-lights include Paige DeNeve’s goal-kicking abilities and Paige Bean’s ability to generate power hitting the scrummage sled. 

Then it was Game Time! Our Captain, Tyler Ardron a BARBARIAN! The Ontario players cheered his every move. And what a game…some of the most dynamic rugby our players had ever seen.

Post-game, after most of the 55,000 supporters had exited the stadium, Canada’s Captain came over to the end zone to celebrate with the Ontario players. “Born in Lakefield Ontario. 4 seasons as a Junior Blue, 3 years with the Senior Blues, Professional Contracts in Wales and New Zealand, World Cup Captain and now Barbarian. Tyler taking photos with our players at the home of English Rugby really hammers home to our athletes that anything is possible with hard work” stated Connelly.

Rugby Ontario would like to thank all of the coaches and management team for their work in making this truly and outstanding tour. To the athletes, we hope that this tour has provided a glimpse of what a professional rugby environment looks like and provides motivation for your continued development.


The Ontario Blues program is the high performance representative program for male and female rugby players in Ontario. Rugby Ontario is represented at the provincial level by the Ontario Blues. The program includes representative teams from Under-15 to Senior in both Women’s and Men’s Fifteens and Under-18 Men's and Women's Sevens. Specifically, the program is designed to develop and showcase rugby players for Canadian representative national teams.


Rugby Ontario is the provincial sports governing body responsible for the organization of rugby in Ontario. Our mission is to establish a stronger identity for rugby in Ontario by promoting the sport’s core values and by fostering a culture of inclusiveness and excellence on and off the field of play.

To learn more, visit http://www.rugbyontario.com/

Rugby Ontario High Performance Staff

Sean Medeiros 

High Performance Coordinator

647-560-4790 x 1004


Paul Connelly 

High Performance Manager

647-560-4790 x 1002



Dalton Finkbeiner

Communications and Marketing Coordinator - Rugby Ontario

647-560-4790 x 1006