Twin Cities and Glendale take early ranking lead after WPL Week 2

With wins over Chicago and Atlanta, Amazons and Merlins start season 2-0

Twin Cities and Glendale are now 2-0 after the second round of the Women's Premier League, while Berkeley and New York earned their first victories of the season. The upcoming weekend will see the 10th team, San Diego, play its first match of the season.

In terms of scoreline, Twin Cities and Atlanta played the tightest game, with the Amazons winning 26-12. But Twin Cities assistant coach Kim O'Brien alluded to a frustrating performance on the pitch.

"It was another one of those weeks where we came out with the victory, and we appreciate that, but we definitely have things to work on," O'Brien said. "The whole game seemed to be really sloppy. Our backs just weren't connecting at all, and we had the same back line as last weekend, so it wasn't necessarily because we were mixing people up or trying different combinations. ... We just couldn't get our lines running well offensively, and defensively, we weren't fabulous either."

The teams traded tries through the third quarter. Twin Cities sent hooker Ashley Kastendick and wing Jasmine Davis into the try zone, while fullback Megan Wolff added a conversion for 12 first-half points. Atlanta scrumhalf Pat Neder answered with a Sherri Kelly-converted try, 12-7 into the break.

As the third quarter neared, Life University coach Ros Chou scored from inside center, 12-12, but this time, Twin Cities responded immediately. Women's Rugby World Cup Eagle Sylvia Braaten, playing scrumhalf, scored minutes after Chou, and Wolff's conversion gave the Amazons a permanent lead. In the waning minutes, inside center Maria Bowker added her second try of the season, and Wolff kicked her seventh conversion in two games, 26-12.

"They were scrappy," O'Brien said of Atlanta. "Their forwards were always around the ball, and there were a couple of breaks in the backs that could have been more dangerous than they were."

The Amazons have two weeks to work on team chemistry in advance of New York. Atlanta will its first home game against New York this Saturday.

New York opened up its WPL season with a 43-19 win over Beantown in Boston. The teams were within striking distance of each other through the first half, as New York put up 15 points on tries from Lisa Roselin and Kristen Siano, who also added a penalty and conversion, and Beantown got five points from flanker Morgan Roberts.

But then in the first 10 minutes of the second half, Emily Magee and Tahlia Brody (2) scored tries that Siano converted (36-5). Beantown did respond with a brace of tries in the following 10 minutes - Yeja Dunn scored her fourth of the season and Jess Davis her third - and Allison Martin's conversion made it 36-19 after 68 minutes. But then New York captain Tiffany Faaee halted that momentum a minute later with a try that Siano converted, 43-19.

New York head coach James English qualified the season-opener as a typical first outing, one that was marked by execution issues but also promise, especially from the young pack. Players like Gio Cruz and Amber Chandu, both Play Rugby Academy graduates, stepped up against the always-abrasive Beantown forwards. Meanwhile, captain Faaee had migrated from the front row to inside center.

"Tiff has played a lot of center in rugby league, so it's not new for her," said English, who explained that her transition to the front row evolved after she was identified for the national team. "The World Cup took a lot out of her, and I believe this might be her last year playing, even though she has aspiration to coach as well. So part of that was giving her an opportunity to fall back into an area of enjoyment and comfort [at center]. She gives great go-forward and is also a great distributor and playmaker, and did really well. It will take a little while to build into the position but she could offer us something a little different there than what we've had before."

Berkeley kicked off the Blue Conference action with a 32-10 win over ORSU, and it took another second-half push to get the victory. ORSU established a 10-point lead after 15 minutes, as prop Avery Johnson and flanker Rachel Johnson scored tries from close range.

"I think we came out hard, ready to hit, motivated - the first half, we just killed it. But then we lost momentum a little bit, and by the time we found ourselves, it was just a little too late," ORSU hooker Paris Hart said. "A few penalties didn't go our way, got us on the back foot, and then we started to beat ourselves up for those penalties. It took us a little while to get over it and move on." As the half drew to a close, Berkeley put away two longer-range tries. One originated from a mid-field penalty, and the quick tap moved to flanker Christina Ramos, who slipped a tackle, and then more tackles, for the corner try. Bulou Mataitoga followed suit, taking a nice offload from wing/scrumhalf Alyssa Baccarella for the try, 10-10 into the break.

Mataitoga gave Berkeley its first lead of the game four minutes after the break, and then an ORSU yellow card helped set up No. 8 Delaney Chapman's dive-over try. Sam Miller's conversion made it 22-10. Hart noted an uptick in Berkeley's defensive pressure, and a fourth try from prop Allie Bryne gave the home side a three-score lead, 27-10. There were still 17 minutes to play in regulation, but Berkeley used the time to send reserve Emma Harbage across for another try, 32-10.

The Glendale vs. Chicago North Shore game was shown live on The Rugby Channel and saw the WPL newcomer take an early 3-0 lead off a Gabby Whittinghill penalty. The wing added a second penalty 25 minutes later, but that would be it for Chicago North Shore in the 20-6 defeat.

North Shore had some issues in the set pieces, as the Merlins forwards were to steal a couple of scrums and disrupted the majority of lineouts. Glendale had its share of miscues - most notably timing and ballhandling in tight - and penalties became an issue as the game wore on. Merlins fullback Alli Hale scored the first of her two tries in minute 23, and flyhalf Hannah Stolba's conversion gave the home a side a lead it would not relinquish. Stolba added a penalty for the 10-6 lead into halftime.

 Jacqueline Finlan, Calder Cahill

Glendale took a couple of injuries, and Kristine Peterson came on for No. 8 Taryn Brennan and made a notable impact in the second half. After a North Shore yellow card, the loose forward stepped into the line and sent a longer pass to Hale in space for the try. She was breaking the line, too, and scored Glendale's third try in minute 54, 20-6.

The Chicago North Shore proved that it belongs in the league, and prevented Glendale from banking a bonus point. It will be fun watching this new team make the rounds through the Blue Conference and acclimate to the WPL standard.