Written by: Jackie Finlan
Photo Credit: Mike Conners
The Women’s Premier League (WPL) enjoyed a competition-wide bye and returned to the pitch last weekend with renewed energy. For a second consecutive round, the home teams banked the wins, but they were far from easy victories.
Union Point Sports Complex in Weymouth, Mass., hosted the northeast classic between Beantown (2-0) and New York (1-2). The home side raced out to a 17-0 lead, putting wings Emma Santosuosso (2) and Hannah Mackay away for tries. Backs captain Amanda Schweitzer kicked the first of two conversions.
“We are playing a new attacking style of play and took a lot of confidence from some great training weeks to start the match fast and strong,” Beantown co-head coach Ollie Engelhart reflected on the fast start. “The team found opportunities across the field and executed really well to start the game, and we felt like it went from strength to strength and built confidence playing the way we want to play. The grubber kick to score the first try sums up the creativity and execution we hope to see out there, and the team nailed it to start.”
New York surged in the second quarter, and flanker Adriana Castillo dotted down two tries before the halftime whistle: 17-10 Beantown.
“New York did a good job refocusing and going back to their strength and executed the fundamentals well,” Engelhart noted. “Strong carries, consistent lines meant we played a lot of defense from 20-40 minutes and they managed to put the pressure back on us for that period of time and built some points.”
After the break, Beantown extended its lead to 24-10 through a Hallie Taufoou try and Emily Becker conversion. New York responded with another set of tries, the first from flanker Gio Cruz, the second from outside center Allysa O’Neill, who also converted both scores: 24-24 with 25 minutes to play.
The scoreboard did not flinch for the next 20 minutes, and then Beantown reserve Brittany Dykes scored back-to-back tries. Schweitzer added a conversion in the 36-24 victory. Beantown is 2-0 with two bonus-point wins, and New York (1-2) also gets the bonus point for tries scored.
“Really impressed with the effort and team mentality to find the momentum again to close out the game,” Engelhart praised the effort. “The team has some incredible leaders with lots of experience and they really stepped up to drive the energy moment. We talked about defining the wins in the small moments, the launch, the pass, the chase; and small wins build on each other and I think that helped us build back the momentum and get back to some exciting rugby to finish the match.”
Tracking west, the Colorado Gray Wolves (2-1) hosted Chicago North Shore (1-2) in the teams’ first game against each other since fall 2018 (when the Gray Wolves were the Merlins). And after 25 minutes, the visitors led 15-12.
“We underestimated North Shore,” Colorado Gray Wolves coach Mose Timoteo said. “We were complacent in some parts of the field, our penalty count was high, and that put us on the back foot. But credit to Chicago [North Shore]. They brought it [Saturday]. They put phases together and put us under pressure with all those penalties.”
Colorado’s KB Broughton and Kelsie O’Brien, and North Shore’s Madison Hovren and Katherine Lamont traded tries in the opening 15 minutes. Gray Wolves newcomer McKenzie Hawkins and North Shore center Emma Farnan added a conversion apiece for the 12-12 scoreline. At 24 minutes, Farnan added a penalty kick for the three-point lead.
The Gray Wolves immediately responded with a Nichole Wanamaker try on the wing and closed out the half with flanker Rachel Ryan barreling over the whitewash. With Hawkins’ two conversions, the home team led 26-15 into the break.
“We just needed to play our game, no matter what happened in the first half,” Timoteo said of the halftime chat. “Play the game that we can control and that we’re familiar with. Play in the right areas of the field. No need to panic.”
Colorado put down two tries in 25 minutes, the first from flanker Carson Hann and the second from Hawkins, who is in Colorado for grad school. The Eagle flyhalf is syncing with scrumhalf O’Brien, who is in pilot school and available on the weekends.
“Carson Hann really impressed me,” Timoteo said of standouts. “The grit that she has, and the work she puts into every training and every weekend is phenomenal. She’s very consistent, and that’s what we want from all our players. Carson sets the bar very high. She’s my go-to. Really playing at the top of her game right now.”
The Gray Wolves led 40-15 until the waning minutes, when wing Mackenzie Wood dotted down for North Shore: 40-20 the final.
“I was happy that we got the win, but was I satisfied with the way we won? I feel like we didn’t execute the way we wanted to execute,” Timoteo said. “But like I said, credit to Chicago [North Shore]. That was the most penalties we’ve conceded in maybe the last 3-4 years that I can remember, so maybe we need to refocus on discipline. Just need to be more clinical to make it a complete game.
“Keep an eye on Chicago [North Shore],” the coach closed. “They gave us a good run [Saturday]. They have good size, good players, and once they get more time together, they’re going to be a team to reckon with.”
Round three wrapped up on Treasure Island in San Francisco, where Life West (1-2) hosted the TC Amazons (0-2). The Gladiatrix scored in the opening two minutes, as lock Mele Taumoefolau dotted down the first of her two tries, and wing Myia Wilkes kicked the first of eight conversions. It was a slugout through the rest of the first quarter, until fullback Leti Hingano lit up the scoreboard with a try at 20 minutes, 12-0.
Life West put down four more tries in the first half through flanker Haiteleneisia Heimuli, No. 8 Siale Alatini, Taumoefolau and scrumhalf Miri Marawa, and with Wilkes’ extras, led 38-0 at the break. In the second half, Marawa (2), Alatini, flanker Roxelle Thomas and outside center Summer Latu all scored tries. Wilkes finished the day with a team-high 16 points off the boot: 71-0 the final. The bonus-point win marks the NorCal team’s first victory of the 2023 season.
Action resumes this weekend and sees the following match-ups:
Berkeley @ New York
Colorado Gray Wolves @ TC Amazons
Beantown @ Life West