WPL CHAMPIONSHIP RECAP: DAY 1
CHRIS TURNER • NOVEMBER 2, 2019 • Glendale, CO
This exciting weekend, of the United State’s best in women’s rugby, began with lot’s of snow and windy temperatures blowing through the town of Glendale. The nation’s best begin the annual competition in pursuant of being crowned the Women’s Premier League Champions. All 10 teams are local for the end-of-the-season tournament in deciding ultimate bragging rights. Decisive victories, unforeseen upsets, and all-around quality rugby encapsulated Day 1 of the WPL Championship Weekend.
GAME 1: SAN DIEGO VS CHICAGO
A determined San Diego Surfers side were adamant in showing their championship weekend potential against the rowdy Chicago club. San Diego started with an onslaught attack, staying strong in contact for the extra drive to lead over the line seven times throughout the match. A total of 11 tries, the Surfers club sliced through the North Shore defense, in which 10 different players crossed the tryline. Chicago would score two tries themselves, once in each half, by Anna Cohen-Price & Kadie Sanford. Although the score may seem lopsided, the North Shore squad played valiantly in their second to last match of the 2019 campaign. The Surfer pack built the foundation the entirety of the game, bringing in the Chicago defense, which lead to eventual gaps in the line. In the end, San Diego proved to be the stronger team in the match as the leave with a 55-12 victory.
GAME 2: TWIN CITIES VS ORSU
The Jesters of Oregon began the game firing on all cylinders, more so within their defensive eagerness, which lead to positive tackles and crunching hits. Twin Cities had unfortunately plenty of mistakes early with knock-ons and forward passes, which lead to opportunities ORSU were eager to pounce on. The Oregon-side pack undoubtedly shown their full potential for all 80 minutes, lead with relentless play by their #6 blindside flanker, Rachel Johnson. The ‘ping-pong’-esque match ensued for the remainder of the half, with both teams giving shots, and darting chances back and forth. Great rugby was on display in this game as the formerly last place Jester side fought valiantly against a poised Amazon club. Twin Cities, had regained momentum multiple times throughout the last half with their dedicated surges. But, with less than 7 minutes to go, ORSU kept their ground, fighting for every possession and meter. Finding their way close to the tryline in consecutive attempts late in the game. Spearheaded by tactical picking and jamming, eventually leading the Jesters to their first win of the season, beating the Amazons 46-33.
GAME 3: BERKELEY VS BEANTOWN
The All Blues of Berkeley were extremely strong in attack, spreading the ball wide with dynamic play, and providing many opportunities for everyone on the pitch. The match was mainly a tough positioning battle between the 22 meter lines, trading blow for blow. This battle of grit and perseverance lead Berkeley to break down the hinges of the Beantown defense, busting the gates open later in the match. The leading scorer of the game was Evan Hoese, who coincidentally scored the last 14 points of the test, with two tries she converted herself. Although Berkeley had a yellow card in the first half, the 14 on the field proved themselves worthy of mention, in holding off the surging Beantown attack and even earning ground. A vulnerable BRFC defense late in the game was the ultimate chink in the armor, leading to a 38-0 All Blues win.
SEMIFINAL #1: NEW YORK VS LIFE WEST
In the first semifinal battle of the day, East #2 seed New York challenged the West #1 seed in Life West. The game began with the Gladiatrix taking control of the opening minutes momentum, drawing first-blood with two tries. New York attempted to assemble their defensive structure against a daunting Life West attack, but they seemed too strong to stop in the first half with a 29-5 lead at the break. Once play resumed, it seemed Life West were the sure to reach the finals by scoring once again, early in the second half. New York mustered their strength, lead by field generals Alycia Washington and Abigael Yotes, who lead the charge and provided one of the more exciting comebacks of the season. With two unanswered tries, New York gained control of a full momentum swing, in curating a potential upset. NY clawed for every possible meter for the remainder of the match, earning breakaway tries and huge turnovers down the stretch. Outscoring the Gladiatrix 4 to 1 tries in the second half, they brought the lead within a close 3 points in the final minutes. As they slowly, yet consistently, made their way down the field, New York unfortunately gave up a mid-field penalty which resulted in the final whistle in the Gladiatrix favor. Hats off to New York on the overall effort, but it is Life West, who will advance to the finals after a 34-31 victory, lead by their captain, and USA Eagle, Nikki Kenyon.
SEMIFINAL #2: GLENDALE VS ATLANTA
In the final match of a very cold and snowy day of rugby, the hometown Glendale Merlins showed up with lots of local fans in support of their match against the Harlequins of Atlanta. The Georgia-side were not fazed by the crowd noise, and drew first points off of a penalty kick 4 minutes into the game. The keys to their success were to draw the Glendale defense inwards, ultimately taking advantage around the outside. Atlanta had also proved to have a very staunch defensive in the opening half, preventing Glendale from scoring multiple times within their own 22 meter line. But the effort would soon prove to crack down the stretch After hard fought advancing meters, the Merlins conceded a penalty lineout deep in Atlanta territory. This effort ultimately fated the Gendale pack to drive their maul over the line just before the halftime whistle, bringing the score to 19-8 at the break. Within the opening minutes of the second half, Glendale regained dominance quickly with a try and did not let up for the remainder of the match. The constant Merlins advance in attack was due to their menacing forward pack with speed, and kicking ability of their backs, led by captain, and USA Eagle, Gabby Cantorna. The surefire kicking ability of Glendale’s side led them to multiple penalty kicks by McKenzie Hawkins, mixed with strategic kicking during phase play. Atlanta did rebuttal with another try of their own late, but it was not enough, as Glendale’s boots and forward pack creativity them to a 35-15 victory over the East’s best.
Watch out for this exciting Final on November 3rd, with Life West Gladiatrix vs Glendale Merlins vying for the battle of the Women Premier League’s best.