Berkeley holds, Glendale rolls in Women's Premier League Championship Semifinals

GLENDALE, Colo. - The Glendale Raptors earned the right to protect their status as Women's Premier League Champions with a 44-20 defeat of New York Friday at Infinity Park.

The "home" team scored seven tries in 60 minutes before New York piled on 17 points in a comeback bid. Capped Eagle Hannah Stolba scored 12 points from her boot in the match, converting three of her team's tries.

The earlier Semifinal between Berkeley All Blues and Twin Cities Amazons, who fell to the Raptors in last year's Final, was worthy of a trophy itself, though the Finalists will have to wait until Sunday at 3:30 p.m. MT to contest the title.

The Amazons defeated Berkeley in both of the past two WPL Championships: the 2013 Final and the 2014 Semifinal. In Friday's Semifinal, history meant nothing.

Twin Cities threatened on the attack first, nearing the try line as early as the third minute. Berkeley was penalized in the fifth minute, and USA Rugby AIG Women's Collegiate All-American Jacie Vonada opened the scoring with a penalty goal.

Not to be outdone, the All Blues got the ball from the restart and quickly moved into 'Zons territory. In the ninth minute, former Women's Eagles Sevens captain Amelia Villines dotted down to put her side in the lead at 5-3.

The shape of the game could have been much different had Twin Cities capitalized on more than one occasion in a 15-minute span in the half. Jamie Zarembinski put the Amazons in the lead in the 15th minute with a try from a lineout five meters in front of the try line, and a 60-meter play between Maria Bowker and Vonada was stopped short of the in-goal area by Ardia Kelker's try-saving tackle.

Though Berkeley was able to clear the ball for momentary respite, play resumed and referee Brian Zapp showed inside center Frances Wehrwein a yellow card after multiple infractions in the 20th minute. Despite the advantage, it was Twin Cities that suffered on the scoreboard during the 10-minute sinning.

The All Blues set up a lineout outside the Amazons' 22 in the 26th minute, and a maul with two forwards blazed a trail towards the white paint. Eagle Phoebe Boone finished the attack a phase later with the try for a 10-8 Berkeley lead.

All-American Frieda Fetu'u capped the half with a try, using her wing as a dummy on the 22-meter line. She cut inside the defensive line and caught Vonada wrong-footed to increase the All Blues' lead to 15-8 after 40 minutes.

A converted try from Kaelene Lundstrom three minutes into the second frame set the tone for the half, which saw four tries scored between the two semifinalists, although the score did remain level at 15-15 for nearly 10 minutes until Vonada kicked a penalty goal.

Lisa Dombroski restored Berkeley's lead in the 63rd minute after a sustained attack inside Twin Cities' half. Vonada dotted down in the 70th minute to put the 'Zons ahead by one point at 23-22, but it took barely 90 seconds for Berkeley's response - a try from Dombroski. The try was converted for a six-point lead at 29-23.

Berkeley defended for most of the remaining minutes while the Amazons went to work in their attacking half. Within five meters of the try line, the attack moved from the north touch line towards the uprights, but the ball was lost forward. The All Blues kept the ball after the scrum and looked to get out of their own half, but a strip from Twin Cities again put the side from California on the back foot. Another turnover put possession back in the hands of Berkeley before a knock allowed the clock to keep ticking.

Twin Cities used numbers in the open side of the field as a distraction for Lundstrom, who took the ball along the short side of the scrum to the corner of the try zone. The wing desperately reached for the corner, but Berkeley fly half Ruth Bryson made the tackle into touch to draw the referee's whistle.

Berkeley and Glendale will contest the WPL Championship at 3:30 p.m. MT Sunday, following matches for seventh, fifth, and third place. All matches from Infinity Park will be streamed live on USA Rugby TV.