Stolba’s 11 points lead Glendale to WPL Championship

MARIETTA, Ga. – The Glendale Raptors denied Twin Cities a second consecutive Women’s Premiere League title by defeating the Amazons 16-15 and claiming the 2014 Emirates Airline USA Rugby WPL National Championship.

Twin Cities carried over their stellar Day 1 play with positive offensive phases early in the Final. The momentum led to a seventh-minute try by lock Tiffany Gjestvang that went unconverted.

Glendale looked to tie game following Gjestvang’s score with a try of their own, but the Amazons were able to hold up a diving attempt just beyond the end line, and the ball was brought back out to the five-meter mark. Glendale would eventually get on the board via the boot of Eagle fly half Hannah Stolba. The successful penalty attempt midway through the first half seemed to settle the nerves of the Raptors.

Glendale continued to attack within the Amazons own half, but sturdy defense led by flanker Lynelle Kugler prevented the Raptors from taking the lead.

A timely kick by Sylvia Braaten put the Amazons in positive field position and the defending champions would eventually earn a lineout deep in the opposition’s side of the pitch. After winning the lineout, Twin Cities would score a team try by pushing over the try line with hooker Jamie Zarembinksi being credited for the five points, which gave the Zons a 10-3 advantage.

Just when it looked like Twin Cities would head into intermission with the 7-point lead, Glendale cut into that advantage with multiple wide passes to one end of the field putting Andrea Prunsinksi away for a try.

Entering the second half down 10-11, Glendale did not waste any time taking its first lead of the WPL Final. Once again, it was the trusty foot of Stolba that slotted a penalty through the uprights putting the Denver-based side ahead 11-10.

The Amazons looked to be on the verge of regaining the lead, as Glendale failed to relieve themselves of pressure deep in their own territory. The Raptors did, however, manage to patiently keep possession long enough for Joanna Kitlinksi to make a dashing break through the heart of the defense, chugging her way across the 50-meter line. Steady phase-play would eventually put the ball in Stolba’s hands and the Smith and Forge MVP stepped two Amazons defenders before diving in for a try and a 16-10 lead. The failed conversion kept the game in a one-possession balance, giving life to the unflappable Amazons side.

Back on the attack, winger Kaelene Lundstrum was able to scoop up an inaccurate offload by Katana Howard and score a try with only two minutes left to play. Down just one point, the conversion fell short to keep the score 16-15 in favor of Glendale.

The Amazons kept possession following Stolba’s restart, and played to their strength by keeping the ball in the forwards’ hands in the middle of the pitch. A yellow card sent a Raptor off the field for the final possession, giving further life to the desperate Amazons who continued to maintain the ball through the full six minutes past expired time.

With both teams showing fatigue, Glendale mustered the strength to successfully counter ruck over the ball to create a turnover and subsequently kick the ball into touch sounding the final whistle. Celebration would ensue for the Raptors and their well-deserved 2014 WPL National Championship title.

In the day’s earlier action, Berkeley out-muscled Atlanta to claim third place in the final WPL standings. The All Blues jumped out to an early 10-0 lead that proved too much for the Harlequins to overcome.

In the battle for fifth place, San Diego’s Kayla Roth’s two-try performance led the Surfers to a 29-14 victory over Oregon Sports Union, while the D.C. Furies were able to avoid a winless weekend with a 27-13 win against New York which saw fly half Lauren Rhode record 12 points via two penalty kicks and three conversions.

Final 2014 Women’s Premier League Standings:

1) Glendale Raptors
2) Twin Cities Amazons
3) Berkeley All Blues
4) Atlanta Harlequins
5) San Diego Surfers
6) Oregon Sports Union
7) D.C. Furies
8) New York Rugby Club