Offenses Flourish in WPL Week 4

Week 4 saw the Women’s Premier League (WPL) teams better express themselves offensively as they combined for a season-high 240 points last weekend. Six of eight teams earned bonus points for tries scored.

But Chicago North Shore (1-2) had even more reason to celebrate, as the team got its first-ever win in the WPL, defeating Berkeley (1-2) 29-17 in front of a hometown crowd.

“The first WPL win felt amazing,” Chicago North Shore captain Lauren Trout enthused. “We talked before the game that we had shown we deserved to be in the WPL. Now it was time to prove that we could win in the WPL.”

The home side scored the first 15 points of the match, sending wing Gabby Whittinghill, wing Devon Gold and prop Sidney Montano into the try zone. Berkeley scored on either side of the half and a conversion narrowed the differential to three, 15-12 to North Shore.

North Shore restored some cushion with a nice kick-and-chase try that originated with Trout. The flyhalf, who had been playing lock during the first two WPL games, kicked ahead, Whittinghill gathered and connected with fullback Betty Nguyen, who scored. Whittinghill’s conversion gave North Shore a 22-12 lead, and that fourth try ended up being the decider.

All Blues flanker Cassie Tong scored to once again close in, but a fifth and final converted try from Whittinghill provided the 29-17 win.

“Berkeley gave us a fight and challenged our defense throughout the entire game,” Trout commended the opposition. “For us, today was an example of a great team win. We had scores from all over the pitch – from props, centers and wings.

“Gabby Whittinghill had a fantastic game with several timely intercepts and breaks down the field. Our forwards did a ton of hard work as well in the set piece and rucks,” the captain continued. “We still have lots of kinks to work out in our pattern, but we’re excited about our progress for the rest of the season.”

North Shore enters a bye week and then resumes play on Oct. 7-8, when it will host San Diego (1-1) in a double-header weekend. The Surfers won their first game of the season, rebounding from a bonus-point loss to Glendale with a 42-27 win over visiting ORSU (1-2).

“We worked on moving our defensive structure around to cover the offensive [and] taking care of the ball in contact to maintain possession,” San Diego scrumhalf Deven Owsiany noted areas of focus since the Glendale loss.

Those adjustments were apparent in the first half, as San Diego took a 14-point lead on two Sam Pankey tries, which were converted by fullback Megan Foster. Foster was good for six conversions on the day.

ORSU flanker Zoe Wilson got her team on the board after 15 minutes, but then the home side answered with another two converted tries from outside center Kimdinh Tran and prop Jamila Reinhardt to take a 28-5 lead. ORSU picked up some momentum at the end of the half, as hooker Paris Hart scored her first try of the season. That energy flowed through the third quarter, and ORSU added tries from inside center Danielle Riggleman and wing Erika Farias. The 28-20 scoreline held until the final 10 minutes of the match, when San Diego wing Tia Blythe scored. Flyhalf Hunter Griendling was in the try zone five minutes later and put the game out of reach, 42-20, but ORSU kept pushing until the final whistle. The visitors were rewarded with a fifth try, courtesy of wing Claire Lundy. Fullback Emma Richie added the conversion for the 42-27 final. ORSU will travel to Infinity Park to take on Glendale next week, a match available on The Rugby Channel

In the Red Conference, it’s New York (3-0) that has remained undefeated, having bettered Twin Cities (2-1) 53-41 in Minnesota. But the victory did not come easily.

“It really was a game that swung back and forth. I think I aged about five years watching,” New York coach James English joked. “It was a super hot day and the game was played at a frantic pace. Slightly contrasting styles of rugby made for a very entertaining 80 minutes.”

No. 8 Bailey Johnson and flanker Katie Johnson gave Twin Cities a 10-point lead after six minutes, and then the first of several lead changes occurred as New York rallied with three-straight tries from fullback Jennifer Salomon, wing Lisa Roselin and captain Tiffany Faaee, 15-10 to New York.

Amazons inside center Maria Bowker scored her side’s third try of the game, and the first conversion of the match came from fullback Megan Wolff, 17-15. New York scored two more first-half tries – wing Juliette Conte and outside center Emily Magee – and flyhalf Kristen Siano’s conversion gave New York a 27-17 lead.

Three more lead changes occurred in the third quarter. Twin Cities got its tries from flyhalf Katana Howard and both Johnsons, and Wolff added a conversion. New York’s Salomon dotted down her second try to retake the lead, however briefly.

Entering the fourth quarter, Twin Cities led 36-32, and then Eagle center Sylvia Braaten scored her side’s seventh try for a 41-32 lead.

“We were nine points down with 15 [minutes] to play,” English recounted. “I was really happy with our impact players who came on and really added value to our performance. The squad showed composure and patience while chasing the game, still stuck to the game plan and showed great character to earn a very difficult win. They showed great trust in each other.”

Magee scored her second try was followed by Siano and reserve Alexa Scott in the try zone. Siano added all three conversions for the 53-41 win.

New York will finish out the first half of the season against the D.C. Furies (0-3), which are looking for their first league win. The Furies traveled south to Atlanta (1-3), and despite a 10-7 first half, ultimately fell 35-7. The victory marked the Harlequins’ first of the season.

Atlanta captain Monique Compito scored 12 minutes in, and then D.C. took the lead as flanker Gussie Maguire scored and flyhalf Maggie Olney converted, 7-5. The home team retook the lead for good at minute 35, when scrumhalf Meredith Nelson scored to round out the half, 10-7.

In the second half, Harlequins flanker Hannah Twilley scored twice, and hooker Laketa Sutton and flyhalf Sherri Kelly scored quick, back-to-back tries. Reserve Carolyn Mackey got in on the scoring as well for the bonus-point win.

Atlanta is the first team to play all four teams in its conference and now enjoys a much deserved bye week.

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