AIG WCAAs fall short in match with Maple Leafs

SALT LAKE CITY - Twenty minutes off task kept the USA Rugby AIG Women's Collegiate All-Americans from a victory Tuesday as the Maple Leafs escaped Regional Athletic Complex with a 15-10 win in the first of two matchups between the sides.

Canada's development side scored three tries in the final 10 minutes of the first half before the WCAAs were able to regroup at the break, keeping the visitor from adding to its lead in the final frame. The teams will complete their two-match series Saturday, July 9, prior to the final day of the 2016 Women's Rugby Super Series. The match will kick off at 11 a.m. MT, with broadcast details to be finalized.

Girls High School All-Americans powered by ATAVUS scrum half Kat Ramage ran the WCAA offense with poise early in the match, and provided ball to a strong forward pack that included Berkeley All Blues' Frieda Fetu'u and captain Jennifer Johnson. The forwards held their own in set pieces, and their runs forced the Canadians into defensive penalties in the breakdown area.

The Maple Leafs received a talking to from the match official for successive penalties in the 16th minute after Uzo Okoro ran down Gabby Cantorna's kick and blocked the return. The WCAAs set up a five-meter lineout minutes later, and Johnson decided to reward her team for its efforts when the Maple Leafs were penalized again. Tess Feury stepped up to the tee from a slight angle 30 meters from the posts and slotted the ball through for a 3-0 lead 20 minutes into the match.

The WCAAs would not sniff the try line for another half of rugby, however, as the Maple Leafs kept the ball moving quickly and jumped on All-American turnovers with the newfound deficit. Canadian backs Alanna Fittes, Julia Goss, and Elysa Sandron each dotted down for the Maple Leafs, with Sandron and Fittes' tries coming two minutes apart, to end the half with a 15-3 halftime lead.

"We stopped playing for 20 minutes," WCAA Head Coach Sue Whitwell said. "Our first 20 we had good structure, good go-forward. After 20 minutes we lost our ability to connect on defense, so once that broke it was three fast tries; the last time they scored."

The teams filled their reserve benches with 11 players each, and combined for 10 substitutions in the first 10 minutes of the second half. A stop-start beginning to the second half allowed the All-Americans to find their rhythm for the first time since assembling. The momentum built and built, and Life University's Kaitlyn Broughton capitalized on her 13 minutes on the pitch with the WCAAs' only try. Scored late, in the 77th minute, and converted by Feury, the seven-point score brought the All-Americans within five points at 15-10. They were unable to overturn the Maple Leafs' lead.

Despite the end result, the WCAAs are in a better place having gone through Tuesday's struggles, and are already more connected heading into Saturday's rematch, the head coach said after the loss.

"[At halftime there was] just a bit of reminding stuff they already knew, calming them down, reminding them what they're already good at and can do, and they went back out there the did that," Whitwell said. "We had a bit more composure, we stayed connected, we had some good go-forward, and then we really started to up the pace of play, started to run some more dynamic lines, and took more risks. It paid of for us.

"I am very happy with what I saw out there. We had a short period of time to learn some structure and connect with one another, so it's a great starting point. Now we can start polishing and executing."

Selected over the weekend from the Junior and Collegiate Stars and Stripes Camp at University of Utah, during which nearly 100 young athletes played with and against each other for a week, the WCAAs will now double their squad preparation time ahead of Saturday's match at Regional Athletic Complex. The rematch will kick off at 11 a.m. MT, prior to the senior side matches at 1 p.m. MT and 3 p.m. MT on The Rugby Channel. Broadcast details are still being finalized for the All-American match.

AIG Women's Collegiate All-Americans | v. Maple Leafs

1. Rebekah Hebdon

2. Bridget Kahele

3. Azniv Nalbandian

4. Haley Schafer

5. Jennifer Johnson (C)

6. Yeja Dunn

7. Frieda Fetu'u

8. Ilona Maher

9. Kat Ramage

10. Gabby Cantorna

11. Francesca Sands

12. McKenzie Hawkins

13. Sarah Buonopane

14. Uzo Okoro

15. Tess Feury

AIG Women's Collegiate All-Americans | Reserves

16. Nicole Benedetti

17. Danielle Ordway

18. Kaityln Broughton

19. Megan Rom

20. Jessica Lewis

21. Bailey Johnson

22. Taylah Pipkin

23. Lanoira Duhart

24. Katie Loughran

25. Elizabeth Rose

26. Ally Day

Maple Leafs | v. USA

1. Colleen Irowa

2. Kathleen Keller

3. Chelsea Minter

4. Emma Taylor

5. Camille Provencal-Aube

6. Katie Svboda

7. Sara Svboda

8. Daria Keane

9. Lori Jospephson (C)

10. MacKenzie Higgs

11. Elysa Sandron

12. Julia Goss

13. Amanda Williams

14. Natasha Smith

15. Alanna Fittes

Maple Leafs | Reserves

16. Simone Savory

17. Megan Copeland-Dinan

18. Brittany Kassil

19. Gillian Boag

20. Ngalula Fuamba

21. Gaby Senft

22. Justine Pelletier

23. Jess Neilson

24. Lisa Gauthier

25. Petra Woods

26. Gillian Allen

AIG Women's Collegiate All-Americans | 10

Tries: Kaitlyn Broughton

Conversions: Feury

Penalties: Feury

Maple Leafs | 15

Tries: Goss, Sandron, Fittes

Conversions: N/A