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Fort Macleod youth helps Alberta win national title

michael mctighe

Michael McTighe of Fort Macleod holds the championship trophy after the Alberta Wolfpack won the Canadian U18 men’s rugby championship on Sunday at Calgary Rugby Union.

Michael McTighe ran 70 yards for the winning try Sunday as the Alberta Wolfpack upset B.C. Bears 29-26 to win the Canadian U18 men’s rugby title.
McTighe, an 18-year-old Fort Macleod resident, also scored the game’s first try as the Alberta team won its first-ever gold medal at the national rugby championships.
It was an historic day at the Calgary Rugby Union on Sunday as Alberta teams also won gold in U18 women’s and U16 boys’ action and bronze in U16 girls’ play.
“It’s pretty awesome for three teams to win the national championship in one day,” McTighe said
It was the second national rugby medal for McTighe this year, after picking up a bronze last winter as part of the Alberta team at the national
sevens tournament at Vancouver.
McTighe played six seasons under head coach Craig Patton with the Southwest United team at F.P. Walshe school, and this summer is playing U18 rugby with the Foothills Lions in Okotoks.
The Wolfpack started the tournament on the right cleat Aug. 18, defeating the Ontario Blues 41-21.
Things took a drastic turn for the worse in their second round-robin game on Wednesday as they fell 30-21 to Newfoundland Rock.
The win advanced the Rock to the tournament semifinal and a rematch with Alberta, who made the playoff round thanks only to the tie-breaking format that put them in ahead of Ontario.
“We knew what we had to do,” McTighe said of the rematch against the Rock. “In the first game we came out flat. We weren’t executing our plan, we were taking penalty after penalty and it cost us.”
The Wolfpack avenged their earlier loss to the Rock, beating the Newfoundland squad 25-21 to advance to the final against B.C. who downed Quebec in the other semifinal.
“I knew we were a strong enough team to compete with them,” McTighe said of facing the Bears in the championship. “I think it was a matter of who wanted it more. I thought we matched up fine with them.”
The Wolfpack opened the scoring 10 minutes into the final as Alberta worked the ball along the back line.
Scrum half Rylen Waugh of Cochrane passed to fly halff Thomas Isherwood of Okotoks, who in turn fed the ball to McTighe.
“Dalton (Campbell) and I ran a switch and I just hit the gap that was open and I dove in for the try,” McTighe said.
Isherwood converted and Alberta had a 7-0 lead over the favoured Bears, who were undefeated heading into the final.
B.C. battled back with an unconverted try to narrow the gap to 7-5.
Alberta responded with an unconverted try of its own, with McTighe feeding Austin Pinnell, an Edmonton product, to restore the seven-point lead that they held to the end of the first half.
Defending champion B.C. remained poised and tied the game 12-12 early in the second half..
An electrifying 70-meter run for a try by Ishwerwood put Alberta in front again, but the Bears replied with two consecutive tries to take a commanding 26-17 lead.
The Wolfpack fought back and made it 26-22 with 10 minutes to play on a try by Juma Amisi of Edmonton.
B.C. was marching toward the Alberta goal line when the Wolfpack were able to turn the ball over and counterattack.
Isherwood picked the ball out of a ruck and fed it to McTighe.
“I dummied to Dalton (Campbell) and hit the gap,” McTighe recalled. “Their nine (scrum half) came across and I stiff-armed him away.”
With one man to beat, McTighe
put an inside-out fake on his opponent and found daylight, and a footrace to the goal line was on.
“As I’m running hearing the crowd cheering, hearing my teammates cheering, helped propel me to the end zone,” McTighe said.
The convert made it 29-26 and the Wolfpack held the Bears at bay for the final six minutes to record the win.

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