WPL ROUND-UP WEEK 9
The Women’s Premier League resumed after a competition-wide bye, allowing squads to recuperate and focus on their Week 9 opponents. Heading into last weekend, there were three teams still in contention for the East Conference’s second seed to the championship semifinals, so wins were especially crucial for this trio.
Beantown put the pressure on New York and Twin Cities after winning its home match against Chicago North Shore, 36-7, on Saturday. It was a good improvement for the Boston side, which had won the teams’ first meeting 10-3, albeit in difficult conditions.
“Very happy to have picked up five points on Saturday evening but we know the performance wasn’t as accurate as it needs to be moving forward,” Beantown head coach Tadhg Leader left room for improvement. “Chicago put in an impressive opening 20 minutes or so and really tested our physicality. Thankfully we survived that and managed to get some ball in hand leading to points.”
Beantown scored 17 first-half points through Yeja Dunn, Brittany Dykes and Kathryn Treder, while Tatjana Toeldte added a conversion. North Shore then answered through a Sarah Berry try and Nicole Fisch conversion: 17-7 into halftime.
“The conditions allowed both sides to play more multi-phase rugby than our last game in the rain. Both sides showed great endeavor and attacked from all parts of the field leading to an entertaining game,” Leader noted. “With it being our last home game we were pleased to score some tries in front of our fans.”
Beantown stretched its legs in the second half, putting Dykes, Toeldte, Lana Brown and Amanda Schweitzer away for scores, and the defense put in a second-half shutout for the win.
“Shifting focus now towards New York: We know they are quality side coming off a big win at the weekend, so we need to put together our best performance of the season to date in order to pick up a road win and secure second place,” Leader concluded.
On Sunday, New York and Twin Cities battled each other and sloppy conditions in Denville, N.J.
“Coming into this game we knew it was knockout rugby to still stand a chance of finishing second in the conference,” New York assistant coach Chris McCarthy began. “In wet, slippery conditions the team rose to the occasion, putting on a composed but passionate performance and playing in the right parts of the pitch.”
It was a stalemate for nearly 15 minutes, and then New York’s Sarah Levy and Dana Alimena scored the first two of their four tries on the day. Gianna Solomon added the first of three conversions for a 12-0 lead. Twin Cities then closed in as Sarah Rosche found the try zone and Danica Mooney-Jones kicked the extras: 12-7.
“The Zons came out firing after the half and put us under some strong pressure, but the intensity of our defense put us back on the front foot,” McCarthy added. Levy, Alimena and Chloe Jex finished off New York tries (29-7), but Twin Cities kept pushing and pulled to within 12 as Rosche and Kelsey Coley dotted down. At 29-17, the Amazons had the momentum as well as 15 minutes with which to work. But New York dug in and produced a final turnover try from Misha Green to seal the 36-17 win.
“The job is not done though,” McCarthy closed, “and the players know they will need to bring the same quality and intensity to [this] week’s decider against Beantown.” New York and Beantown will contest the WPL’s final regular-season game on Sunday, Oct. 27, and the victor will advance to the championship semifinals.
The teams didn’t disappoint and traded scores in the first 20 minutes. Surfers captain Kate Zackary scored twice, while the All Blues answered through Bulou Mataitoga and Serena Liu. Two conversions from Megan Foster gave the home side a 14-10 lead. As the half near, Berkeley took its first lead of the game as Roseline Okpara dotted down, 15-14. The Surfers had the final say of the first 40, as Bui Baravilala scored to restore San Diego’s edge: 19-15.
“We were a little flat coming off the bye week in the first half. We played well sporadically but struggled to get our shape right on both sides of the ball,” San Diego head coach Jarrod Faul explained. “The second half was certainly a turn-around for us. We played with more width and intent, got massive value from our bench, and overall the cohesion was much better than the first half.”
Neither team added points in the third quarter, but then Teigan MacDonald snapped the stalemate and then followed with a second score after a yellow card advantage, 29-15.
“Gen Quirion’s work rate and versatility has been a great addition to the team this season. She has had a terrific season thus far,” Faul acknowledged impactful newcomers and consistent leaders. “Kate Zackary had a strong influence in the forwards, and Teigan MacDonald and Bui Baravilala led the way in the backline.”
In the final minutes, Zackary scored a third try and Foster kicked a third conversion, and then Berkeley’s Tonya Wessman ended the game with a bonus-point-awarding try: 36-20 to San Diego.
“It was our last home game of the season, so we wanted to put in a performance that we could be proud of,” Faul reflected. “Berkeley always present an immense challenge, so to be able to get a win over them is very pleasing for us.”
The weather wasn’t ideal for the Glendale vs. ORSU match, but that circumstance is something with which Rocky Mountain and Pacific Northwest teams are familiar. The Merlins mixed up the roster a little bit and moved some regular starters to the bench, while the Jesters welcomed back players like Rachel Johnson and debutant Tiana A’au.
“We knew going into this game that ORSU wouldn’t be the same team we had seen previously, and we were very much prepared for a challenge,” explained Glendale center and Player of the Match McKenzie Hawkins. “That challenge definitely presented itself in the first half with ORSU scoring first.”
Down 7-0, the Merlins responded with three tries to lead 17-7 at the break.
“At half, we discussed having a slightly tighter attack than normal due to the conditions,” Hawkins recalled second-half adjustments. “We also needed to ensure we had options off ball runners every phase. Defensively, we weren’t making our tackles one-on-one, so we really had to buckle down and commit to each tackle.”
Glendale followed through and consequently added another 24 points to ORSU’s five. No. 8 Amandine Chatelier was particularly effective in piercing the try line, scoring multiple tries in the 41-12 decision.