WPL ROUND-UP WEEK 6
Week Six of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) marked the first round of rematches, and three of the teams that took defeat in round one won on the weekend.
The weekend began in San Francisco, and the Glendale vs. Life West match set a tenacious tone for the second half of the season. The game featured comebacks, sways of momentum, and was tied for approximately 20 minutes. In the end, the Merlins held on for a 31-29 victory and some valuable recompense.
“It was more of a mental thing for us,” Glendale head coach Luke Gross said of the significance of Saturday’s game. “I think we’ve had some team issues that we needed to sort out and today showed the ladies that team always trumps an individual’s ability … and we need to be a team to beat a solid team like Life West. It was a big growing moment for us. We weren’t worried about the win or loss because our standings wouldn’t change but we won in multiple ways today, which is great.”
The Merlins ran out to a 17-point lead in the opening 25 minutes. Good defensive pressure set up a penalty opportunity for McKenzie Hawkins 10 minutes in, and the inside center was good for those three points and another four conversions on the day. A scrum penalty allowed No. 8 Carmen Farmer to go quickly into a readjusting defense and link with wing Kaitlyn Broughton for the day’s first try. An errant lineout saw the Merlins pack consolidate into a driving maul, and then Carly Waters and Farmer broke free for more meters. Play went sideline to sideline before finishing in the hands of speedy Beatriz Amaral.
Life West got the boost it was looking for as fullback Leti Hingano turned the attack up-field for a line-break and try, and Hope Rogers, setting up on the wing, rumbled into the try zone just before the half: 17-10 Glendale. It took two minutes into the second half to even things up, as Elizabeth Cairns timed the pass to wing Neariah Persinger for solid gains along the sideline. The recycle moved back to the middle of the pitch, where Amy Naber Bonte darted through for the try, which Hingano converted: 17-all.
A 20-minute slugfest followed, and then the final 15 minutes produced four tries from Glendale’s Jenny Kronish and Amandine Chatelier, and Life West’s Persinger and Rogers. Hingano added a conversion to end the scoring, and Glendale banked the 31-29 win. Both teams earned bonus points for tries, and the Gladiatrix got another standings point for the close loss.
On the other side of the WPL West, Berkeley traveled to ORSU for a 34-7 win. All Blues head coach João Moura was pleased with the defense’s uptick in discipline, committing fewer penalties and keeping within its system. On attack, he praised the squad’s ability to play loose, produce fast ball and for sticking to its attacking strategy.
“We will keep on working on our breakdown area, even though we’re improving but still not enough to the level we want to play at,” Moura added.
Bulou Mataitoga scored in the first minute of the match, and then the Jesters responded shortly afterward with a Claire Lundy score and Emma Richie conversion. The home side held the 7-5 lead for another 10 minutes, until Mataitoga dotted down again and Maggie Simpson followed. Kristen Siano added a conversion for the 17-7 lead into the break. Berkeley replicated the effort in the second half, sending Simpson, Kedra Davis and Katy Augustyn away for tries, and Sam Miller kicked a conversion.
In the WPL East, those teams that lost their season openers on the road won their respective rematches at home. Atlanta hosted Beantown, and until the 30th minute, only Rosanna Wright had scored for the 5-0 Beantown edge.
“The first 20 minutes saw us under tremendous pressure, spending most of that time down in our half and Beantown with possession,” Atlanta head coach Ros Chou explained. “We were lucky to hold them just to five points, but when we started to launch more effectively, we started to turn the ball over and get the chance to have ball in hand. Once we did that, and played our style of rugby with pace, we started to see a shift in the momentum of the game.”
Chou called out Lara Gartner, Karen Faget, Karissa Lacy and Marcel Nelson, whose consistency and work rate on defense set up opportunities for explosive teammates like Kelli Smith, Cortney Kuehl and Megan Rom.
“Bridget Kahele gives us width on attack, and she’s a ferocious defender,” Chou added. “One try was just head’s up play on the short side, as she attacked around the fringe to freeze the near interior defenders, and skipped a pass out to the touch line to Karissa Lacy hitting on at pace.”
Smith, Lacy and Nelson scored in the first half, and Corinne Heavner’s two conversions provided a 19-5 halftime lead. Quins’ Mo Compito and Beantown’s Kathryn Treder dotted down in the second half (Heavner and Tatjana Toeldte added conversions) for the 26-12 scoreline, but then Heavener’s penalty made it a three-score game. Smith added a second try in the final 10 minutes for the 34-12 win.
Twin Cities moved past the dormant New York into second place in the WPL East standings and tightened up the point differential with a 56-17 win over visiting Chicago North Shore. The Amazons scored 35 unanswered points in the first half, as flyhalf Katana Howard, wing Danica Mooney-Jones, wing Kelsey Coley (2) and No. 8 Katie Johnson scored tries. Mooney-Jones was perfect on first-half conversions and ended the day with 21 points.
Chicago North Shore snapped the shutout in minute 52, when lock Anna Cohen-Price scored, and added two late scores through No. 8 Kadie Sanford and flyhalf Rose Dibalsamo. Inside center Nicole Fisch kicked the conversion for the visitors’ 17 points. In between, the Amazons put fullback Kaelene Lundstrum, lock Shaena Sparrow and flanker Katrina Anderson into the try zone for the league’s biggest win on the weekend.