WPL ROUND-UP WEEK 7
Week 7 of the Women’s Premier League produced two single-digit decisions, keeping the standings close and the pressure intense for the remainder of the regular season.
Just one point separated Life West (5-1) and Berkeley (3-3) in the Bay Area rematch, and the Gladiatrix overcame a halftime deficit to win 15-14. In Week 6, Life West was on the wrong side of a two-point decision against Glendale (4-1), and took some lessons into Saturday’s game.
“I think we had moments of really great rugby,” Life West flanker Elizabeth Cairns said of Glendale take-aways. “When we think too much and we get into an individual attitude, that’s when we slow down. When we played fast and we played together and shared the work load, that’s when we really shined.”
Berkeley took the first lead when Evan Hoese dummied through the defense and connected with Bulou Mataitoga, who dropped to fullback, for the corner try. Sam Miller made the sideline conversion for the 7-0 lead. In the final 10 minutes of the half, Leti Hingano took a turnover for a long, slicing run to the try zone, and then Hope Rogers took a final pass from Catie Benson along the sideline for a fast-moving try, 10-7. It looked like Life West was going to take that lead into the break, but Berkeley retained possession well past the halftime hooter, and a tryline seam eventually opened up. Allie Byrne dove through it and Miller’s conversion afforded Berkeley the 14-10 lead.
Life West again focused on sharing the work load and cleaning up its game. Some handling errors ended scoring opportunities for the Gladiatrix, but the team was finally rewarded for its possession near the 60-minute mark. Flyhalf Sara Parsons took an angled run at the defense, cut back inside for a line-break, and hit Hali Deters in support for the try, 15-14. Both teams had opportunities for points in the fourth quarter, but the score held.
“For us, for the rest of the season, it’s about building and peaking at the right time,” Cairns said. “We’re trying to celebrate this one and look at the good things but again we have a lot of growing to do still.”
Beantown (3-3) established an early lead and forced the home side, Twin Cities (3-3), to play catch-up, which the Amazons accomplished, and then some. But a final consolidation of effort and will saw Beantown triumph in the waning minutes, 22-20 for the win.
“The most impressive part of today’s win was the players’ ability to stick to the script,” Beantown head coach Tadhg Leader summarized. “We could have got desperate and tried to pull off an X-factor style play in the dying minutes, but instead they remained patient, working through our structures. Thankfully we reaped the rewards.”
Beantown went up 10-0 in the first 10 minutes, as inside center Rosie Wright scored and flyhalf Tatjana Toeldte added a conversion and penalty. Twin Cities closed in during the second 20, as Danica Mooney-Jones kicked a penalty and then fullback Kaelene Lundstrum scored, 10-8 to Beantown.
The home side took its first lead of the game in minute 48 when Mooney-Jones scored, and then built it out to 20-10 with another Mooney-Jones try and conversion. The pressure intensified in the final 10 minutes, resulting in a Twin Cities yellow card and Beantown penalty try, 20-17. Beantown held a player advantage for the remainder of the game, and in the 79th minute, wing Allison Martin scored the game-winning try, 22-20 the final.
“Couldn’t be more proud of the whole squad,” Leader enthused. “Those girls who didn’t take the field today should be equally thrilled as those who played. Everyone had a role to play in picking up a road win.”
“I honestly didn’t expect this point margin,” Atlanta coach Ros Chou noted the absence of Maggie Craig, Karen Faget and two debuts. “So, my goal was for us to keep it close. It was 17-0 at the half, but we spent those last 15 minutes of that first half on defense, trying to keep them out of the try zone. Somehow, some way, we would get a turnover or penalty when we needed it the most to go into the half with them scoreless.”
Scrumhalf Bridget Kahele and wing Kelli Smith scored tries in the first half, while flyhalf Corinne Heavner added a conversion and penalty for the lead after 40 minutes.
“When we went into the halftime huddle, we discussed upping the defensive pressure, supporting our breaks, and using tactical kicking a bit more,” Chou added.
Captain Mo Compito, whose red eye flight had been delayed, arrived and took the pitch, and that was a huge morale boost. Prop Megan Rom scored early in the second half and then New York got on the board through inside center Dana Alimena. Nikki Richardson added the conversion, 24-7. Heavner kept the scoreboard ticking over and answered with the league’s first dropgoal.
“Corinne Heavner really stood out scoring 21 points on the day,” Chou praised. “When she hit the first one on a penalty advantage, the whole team was so excited, that we just started to play with a lot of confidence. By the time Corinne slotted the second drop goal, we were just at full throttle.”
Smith, Compito and Cortney Kuehl scored, Heavner kicked all the conversions and added another dropgoal. New York ended the game with a try from WPL debut Frankie Sands.
“It was a satisfying result for us. Our cohesiveness was probably the best it’s been all season,” Faul lauded. “We have put a lot of emphasis into being patient on attack and seeing that come into fruition has been very rewarding.
“Our forwards set the tone early and continued throughout the game with some strong carries and quick ruck ball that allowed our backs to capitalize out wide and score some outstanding tries,” the coach added.
Wing Teigan MacDonald scored four tries, while Nash Thompson, Tiffany Tate, Jaime Albarelli and WPL San Diego debutants Kimber Rozier and Bui Baravilala dotted down once apiece. Fullback Megan Foster contributed 13 points on a try and four conversions.
“Our defensive shape is improving each week and is an ongoing work-on for us, so we were very elated not to concede any tries,” Faul concluded.