Oregon Sports Union, Pittsburgh Angels take Women’s Club honors in Madison

MADISON, Wis. – Oregon Sports Union scored five first-half tries against Chicago North Shore in a 48-10 victory to win the Women’s Division I Club Championship in its first attempt at the 2014 USA Rugby Emirates Airline Club National Championships in Madison, Wis., Saturday.

Chicago put the match’s first attack together and pushed Oregon deep into its own territory, but a turnover proved costly with a quick Oregon counterattack. Heidi Whitman broke down the field on the left wing and found an onrushing Krystal Franklin for the match’s first try. Molly Luft converted for a 7-0 lead.

Oregon fell under pressure again yet managed to escape unscathed, only to score a second try. Whitman found another gap in the Chicago defense to get her team out of trouble, then followed the play to ensure her team kept the ball. San Juanita finished the attack in the 18th minute for a 12-0 lead.

A chip kick by Oregon in its own half opened the defense, allowing an extended attack through multiple phases before Juanita scored her second try with a driving run from the middle of the field to the touch line and into the try zone. Luft converted for a 19-0 lead.

Brittany Klimek put Chicago on the board in the 27th minute after a teammate secured field position with a long run into Oregon territory to draw a penalty, Klimek took the quick tap straight into the try zone.

Oregon took a 29-5 lead into the half, however, after tries from Adrienne Acosta and Franklin in the last five minutes of the first half. Rachel Johnson split the Chicago defense in the 35th minute to set up Acosta in open space and Franklin combined with Whitman and Anna Symonds in the final minute of the half to score her second.

Symonds got on the score sheet herself in the 48th minute after Becket Royce traveled 30 meters down the field thanks to a big fend at the gain line. Symonds was is support of the number eight and was rewarded with a try between the uprights.

North Shore got one back in the 54th minute when a few crash ball attacks were finished off by a dive over the try line by flyhalf Elizabeth Bristow, but Chicago could not keep Oregon from scoring 12 more second-half points from additional Whitman and Symonds tries to take the DI title, 48-10.

Oregon had three multi-try scorers in the match, but Whitman’s overall play in the Final earned her the Women’s Club Division I Crispin Cider Most Valuable Player award.

Defending Women’s Division II Club Champions Pittsburgh Angels went into halftime against Sacramento tied, but prevailed in a 36-26 win against the Amazons to take home their second consecutive title Saturday.

The Amazons were on the front foot in the first few minutes, but Pittsburgh responded strongly to get into Sacramento territory. The Angels won their own lineout on the right side of the pitch and quickly moved the ball to the opposite side. Melanie Slater faked a pass to open a hole for Stephanie Burkhardt and fed the wing for the match’s first try. Slater converted the try for a 7-0 lead after just 10 minutes.

Slater had a chance to extend the Pittsburgh lead with a penalty kick in the 19th minute, but the attempt from nearly 35 meters went wide. The ball fell into the try zone, however, keeping play alive. The Amazons failed to clear and AIG Women’s Collegiate All-American Aoibheann Cline touched the ball down for the try. Slater kicked her second conversion for a 14-0 scoreline.

Sacramento’s Angela Ve’evalu replied for the Amazons with a strong fend at the Pittsburgh try line to dive over for the try. Joanne Fa’avesi converted to draw within a converted try at 14-7.

The Angels completed the first-half comeback in the 33rd minute through Tolini Finau. The prop bowled over two defenders meters from the try line but was not held on her way down to the pitch, so she got up to score her team’s second try. Fa’avesi kicked the match-leveling try.

After Pittsburgh’s Anne Buches was sent to the bin for repeated infractions, Ve’evalu could have given Sacramento an influential lead in the dying seconds of the first half. As she broke two tackles in the try zone, Ve’evalu lost the ball forward, ending the attack and the first frame.

Pittsburgh survived the 10-minute disadvantage and managed to put together a successful attack when Buches reentered play. Donita Thomas chip-kicked the ball from the 10 and raced onto it to put the Angels back in the lead. About 10 minutes later, Thomas split two defenders in front of the posts and sent an overhead pass to Kindle Fisher, who wasted no time in offloading to Burkhardt for the wing’s second try. Slater converted for a 26-14 Pittsburgh lead.

Thomas again used her game-changing pace to set up a scoring play in the 67th minute by breaking through the gain line untouched for the try. Slater’s third conversion extended the lead to 33-14.

Sacramento appeared to have scored two tries in the span of two minutes, but both were held up in the try zone. Elizabeth Danielson finally got the Amazons over the line successfully, but it was too late for the women in sky blue, who trailed, 33-21, with five minutes remaining in the match.

Slater extended the lead with another penalty kick in the 78th minute to seal the win for Pittsburgh, but Finau added her own icing to the cake with a last-second try, her second of the match, to bring the final score to 36-26.

Burkhardt, in a two-try performance, was awarded the Women’s Club Division II Crispin Cider Most Valuable Player trophy after her team’s second consecutive national championship trophy presentation.