Written by: Jackie Finlan
Photo Credit: Mike Conners
Round five results reorganized the Women’s Premier League (WPL) standings, although Beantown still remains on top as the only undefeated team. The competition will break for Memorial Day Weekend, and then resume for the final month of play before the summer break.
Beantown (4-0) and the Colorado Gray Wolves (3-2) met inside Veterans Memorial Stadium, opening for the MLR match between the New England Free Jacks and NOLA. It was a tight first half, as Beantown No. 8 Yeja Dunn scored seven minutes in, and then Gray Wolves wing Nichole Wanamaker evened it up minutes later. Madison Slaught’s conversion put the visitors up 7-5 after 10 minutes.
“We did watch the film on Beantown, and there were some things that they did and that we adjusted to a bit – our defense – but we were really concentrated on us,” said Colorado head coach Mose Timeoteo, who was reporting from New Zealand. “We haven’t played a complete game yet, and that’s what me and Jamie [Burke] are really focused on: What can we do and control on attack and defense?”
A knock-on early in the second half allowed Beantown to set up in Colorado’s end, and a couple of phases later, wing Emma Santosuosso was in the try zone.Minutes later, a missed tackle at mid-field built into a Hallie Taufoou try. Beantown led 15-7 after 50 minutes.
“We really make it a point to celebrate the small wins, so when we can catch a little bit of momentum, it builds and builds,” Beantown forward MVP Claire Phelan explained. “And we have an incredibly deep and impactful bench this season that keeps that momentum going with fresh legs. We want to catch that momentum earlier with each game, so keeping that togetherness building with lots of small talk and encouragement has been key.”
Gray Wolves reserve Kate Herren scored in the 69th minute, and then Beantown answered through wing Brittany Dykes for a fourth and bonus-point-awarding try: 20-12 the final.
In addition to Phelan, Beantown highlighted center Emily Becker as backs MVP, while Timoteo called out Taufoou for the flanker’s presence on defense and attack. Prop Laura LaVigne and Gianna Solomon earned high praise from Timoteo, who noted their go-forward on attack. And scrumhalf Kelsie O’Brien did a good job pushing a faster tempo.
“We had a lot of good moments, but credit to Beantown,” Timoteo closed. “They sniffed out our errors and capitalized on them and came away with points. Teams like Beantown and New York, you can’t afford to make mistakes in your own half. You have to stay composed and do everything right, so you can get out of your half and play rugby in theirs. We failed to do that and Beantown took advantage.”
Timoteo wasn’t bothered, per se, by the result, as the WPL season is long and there’s still much discovery to do as a team. That sentiment is echoed elsewhere around the league, to different degrees.
The TC Amazons (0-4) traveled to San Jose, Calif., to face Berkeley (3-0-1). The first half was competitive, and the visitors only trailed 20-7, but then the All Blues broke it open with nine-straight tries. Evan Hoese (3), Kedra Davis (2), Kristen Siano (2), Sierra Watkins (2) and Joana Marrese (2) had multi-try days, while Sandi Rail and Roz Okpara also dotted down. Olivia Bernadel-Huey kicked three conversions in the 71-7 win.
The Amazons scored through flanker Brooke Doerscher, and fullback Danica Mooney-Jones added the first-half conversion.
“Our record is not optimal and I am not pleased with the scorelines,” TC Amazons head coach Chris Miskec said. “However, I am pleased with the fact that our team always comes out and competes, and that we are showing small, steady improvements in everything we do across all facets of play.”
Miskec cited the stability of the rucks as an example of continued improvement, as well as rising rugby IQ that is emboldening younger players.
“We’re always going to see the leadership from Kathryn Johnson, Ali Gillberg, Kaelene [Bavery] Lundstrum and now we’re starting to see younger players step into roles that they were very uncomfortable with last spring,” Miskec said. “Now they’re starting to implement tactical decisions, forcing their hand on the play. Lynn Kleyer at scrumhalf, Kelsey [Coley] at wing or center, and then Mariah Lundstrum – Kaelene’s younger sister – they’re all showing great strides compared to last season.”
The Amazons have two more games before the summer break, which is already starting to plot out.
“I feel like we had to focus more on integration and getting the team to a certain level,” Miskec said of the first half of the season. “Now they are craving higher-intensity practices. They’re craving for us to be even more specific on the minutiae of what they’re doing on and off the pitch, and so that’s what we’re going to do during the break.”
On Sunday, New York (2-1-2) traveled to the Chicago Blaze Rugby Facility for its game against Chicago North Shore (1-3).
“I’d say we were caught off guard a bit with Chicago’s physicality and hard attacking running at the start,” New York co-captain Nikki Richardson noted. “When we improved our fold and launch, we were able to limit their powerful running.”
The teams were tied 10-10 after 25 minutes. Wings Shamira Robles and Alyssa O’Neill scored tries for New York, while center Nicole Fisch and wing Mackenzie Wood matched with Chicago North Shore tries.
“The first 20 minutes were a little frantic,” New York assistant coach Lara Vivolo added. “Tackling was inconsistent and Chicago was taking advantage of this.”
New York scored on either side of halftime, sending Sophie Frick and Caoimhe O’Sullivan into the try zone, creating a 22-10 lead with O’Neill’s conversion.
“Offensively, in the second half, we played a bit more patiently with our structure but ran with intensity,” Richardson explained. “We were able to create more continuous go-forward momentum. … We also were able to capitalize on a few turnovers and convert them directly into points.”
O’Neill, Robles, inside center Dana Alimena and flanker Liz Berridge added tries in the final 30 minutes, and O’Neill kicked three more conversions to lead the team with 18 points. New York won 48-10.
“Second half, New York found their flow,” Vivolo closed. “We stepped up the pressure defensively and applied the pressure that needed to be there to force Chicago to make mistakes. … Proud of the squad for the shift in focus the second half, shutting Chicago down offensively and adding 31 points on the board.”
ROUND SIX FIXTURES
Saturday, June 3
Beantown @ TC Amazons
Berkeley @ Chicago North Shore
Life West @ Colorado Gray Wolves