Leaders Widen Gap in Week 3 of WPL
As the third week of the Women's Premier League season got under way this last weekend, some teams were looking to continue their stellar performances while others still struggled to grab their first victory. Both games in the Red Division placed two evenly matched squads against one another. The San Diego Surfers confronted the Twin City Amazons, a team that they were tied with in points at the top of the division. On the other side of the division standings the New York Women's RFC met the Minnesota Valkyries in a match where both teams were seeking their first victories of the season.
Being tied for first place in the Red Division, the San Diego Surfers and Twin City Amazons were both going into Saturday’s match looking for a real test and seeking to prove themselves against their closest competition. The Southern California venue provided a perfect setting for two evenly matched teams to go head-to-head. The game got under way with both teams realizing this match would be the toughest defensive test yet. Both the Surfers and the Amazons showed their power in organization and discipline but the Amazons built up the phases and out maneuvered the San Diego club. Loose-forward Morgan Johnson provided the Amazons with five points coming from tough forward play and consistent phases. The Amazons then put another five points on the board when inside center Sylvia Braaten crossed the Surfers line.
Though the Twin City club had recorded two tries in the early parts of the match, both teams understood this game would last the whole eighty minutes. Just before the first half ended, the Surfers, relying on their strong defense to win turn over ball, capitalized on possession. Their continued presence among the Amazon 22-meter line paid off as the Surfers chose to keep the ball tight and not risk turnovers before the interval. Through built up phases and simple rugby the Surfers crossed for two tries before the half, coming from well-known try machine Casey Fields and front rower Kate Rohr. The boot of Kirstin Hartos took the Surfers into the lead a she converted Rohr's try. As the referee brought the game into the interval Surfers led the Amazons 12-10.
Coming into the second half the Twin City Amazons stressed that they use their heavily experienced back line to out run the Surfers. The Amazons spun the ball wide on several occasions and gained tons of ground but failed to utilize quick ball. However, after back and forth possessions and relentless pressure from their forwards, Amazon fly-half Rebecca Radtke noticed an over load that needed to be exposed. Spinning the ball wide to use space for her outside backs Radtke found Sylvia Braaten and the powerful inside center posted her second try of the day right under the posts. Radtke stepped up for the conversion and insured her team received all points available from the try. Amazons 17, Surfers 12.
Being down by five points the Surfers realized that victory was still very much in reach and depended on their experience with close games to maintain discipline and score some points. In the last quarter of the match the Surfers responded by posting two quick and wonderfully worked tries coming from their back division. Showing their speed and understanding of the game, the Surfers' back line produced good, clean ball which resulted in wide open gaps in front of Amanda Wilson and then only minutes later, Marea Blue. Blue's try helped her team to a hard fought 22-17 victory for the undefeated San Diego Surfers.
On the other side of the Red Division two winless teams were paired up in what was thought to be an evenly matched game. Both the Minnesota Valkyries and the New York Women's RFC went into this weekend with no wins and both looked to have one win by Sunday evening. However, in the beauty that is sport and in the pure confrontation that is rugby union only one team can come out victorious.
In a match built on assumptions where everyone involved expected similar styles of rugby the crowd were witness to a massive surprise. Seemingly trying to prove that their early season losses could be forgotten and the kinks among the team could be fixed the New York Women completely dominated the Valkyries in a 56-5 trouncing. Throughout the match the New York club continued to possess the ball and win it back if they had lost it. If a team controls possession the whole game, it is inevitable that they will place some points on the board.
Through the whole match the New York Women played well, passing the ball around the pitch and spreading the Minnesota defense out. Scoring all their tries through the hands of their back division, the New York Women showed their pace and skill by being unselfish with the ball in hand and opening up space for the outside backs on more than one occasion. The Minnesota defense could not keep up with the fluid movement of the New York attack. Only once did the Valkyries cross for a try. The New York Women recorded a total of ten five pointers to Minnesota’s one. This game will surely be important in the road ahead for the New York Women’s Rugby Club as they look to continue to justify their presence in the WPL and avenge those two losses in the early season.