WPL Week 9 Round Up

In the penultimate round of the Women’s Premier League regular season, two more teams secured their berths to the championship semifinals. The final seed will come down to San Diego and Berkeley, which play each other this Saturday.

New York (7-0) had established itself as the Red Conference leader and won the top seed out of the pool with Sunday’s 48-10 win over the D.C. Furies (0-7). New York is the only team in the league with a three-digit point differential (217) in the standings.

The Furies scored a try in each half, with inside center Lauran Glover proving difficult to contain, and New York spread its eight tries across six players. Wings Juliette Conte and Emily Magee scored two tries apiece, while scrumhalf Shelby Lin, outside center Emily Magee, flanker Gio Cruz and reserve Sarah Minahan also scored tries. Flyhalf Kristen Siano kicked four conversions for eight points.

But it was the Beantown (6-2) vs. Twin Cities (4-3) game that drew the most interest. When these teams last met on Oct. 1, the Amazons fell 10 points shy of Beantown. The rematch took place in Minnesota, and now a berth to the semifinals was at risk. The cold conditions and snowy pitch added to the high-pressure game.

“We knew this was going to be one of our toughest games of the season, with top four on the line and the Amazons being a hard-hitting force in the league,” Beantown co-captain Danielle McDonagh explained. “Unlike our first meeting with Twin Cities, momentum swayed more toward Beantown after the first 20 minutes of lead changes.”

Twin Cities fullback Megan Wolff put her team up 3-0 a couple of minutes into the match, and the first lead change followed when Beantown scrumhalf Tara Roberts scored the first of her two tries. Flanker Emily Jones converted for the 7-3 lead. Wing Kaelene Lundstrum scored in minute 12 to put the Amazons up 8-7, and then the final lead change occurred minutes later, as September Player of the Month and No. 8 Yeja Dunn scored Beantown’s second try, 12-8.

Twenty minutes evolved without a score, and it appeared that Beantown would take a four-point lead into the break. That’s when Roberts got her second try and Jones her second conversion for the 19-8 lead.

“We were able to execute what we have been working on throughout the season – tackle assists – to pressure Twin Cities and get them on their back foot,” McDonagh noted. “There were a few breaks on the outside that created opportunities for Twin Cities, but overall the first half ended with momentum in Beantown’s favor.”

McDonagh noted the uptick in tempo after the break, and Twin Cities sent wing Jasmine Davis into the try zone after three minutes, 19-13. But the hosts hurt themselves with a yellow card, and Beantown took advantage with two tries – one from Jones and another from Dunn, 29-13 with 20 minutes to play.

With five minutes remaining in regulation, Amazons inside center Maria Bowker scored her side’s third try, 29-18, but there wasn’t enough time to further narrow the point differential. With the bonus-point win, Beantown now has a seven-point lead over Twin Cities in the standings and officially booked its spot in the final four. Beantown has concluded its regular season, and Twin Cities will travel to New York on Sunday.

“One of our goals for the season was to set the standard and improve each game. Ultimately, this was a great team win, and the best of our season,” McDonagh praised. “Defensive pressure allowed us to maintain possession, our scrums were dominant, and fast ball in the forwards created lots of opportunities for our backs out wide. We are looking forward to building on this win over the next two weeks and coming out strong in Arizona.”

San Diego (4-3) and Berkeley (4-3) were also in must-win situations last weekend, and now that they’ve accomplished their game-seven goals, will decide the final semifinal seed with a head-to-head on Saturday.

The Surfers traveled to the Jesters on Saturday and got on the board first via flanker Sam Pankey. ORSU captain Rachel Johnson tied it up and flyhalf Emma Richie kicked the conversion, 7-5, a lead that held until the 18th minute. San Diego hooker Talia Carrasquillo, wing Meleah Martin and flyhalf Hunter Griendling all scored, and a Tia Blythe conversion gave San Diego a 22-7 halftime lead.

“It was a tough battle as expected. We were made to work hard for our points and they certainly challenged us right until the end,” San Diego coach Jarrod Faul commended ORSU. “We did a great job pushing the pace of the game. We put some stress on their defensive alignment and ultimately we were able to find the space to score tries.”

Blythe (2) and Kelsi Stockert added second-half tries, and inside center Megan Foster the conversion. ORSU reserve Anna Symonds accounted for the Jesters’ second score in the 39-12 decision.

“We’ve played some solid rugby in the recent weeks and are fairly happy with our progress at this point in the season – now it’s a matter of continuing that momentum into this weekend,” Faul looked toward the home game. “We know we have a huge challenge ahead of us in Berkeley and are conscious of what’s at stake, but excited by the challenge and are really looking forward to it.”

The All Blues hosted Chicago North Shore (1-5-1), and the visitors raced out to a 10-0 lead. Wing Devon Gold opened up the scoring three minutes in, and then flyhalf Kat Stanley added a conversion and penalty kick. The following 10 minutes saw Berkeley reclaim the lead, sending flanker Christina Ramos and outside center Cathy Cai into the try zone. Fullback Sam Miller’s two conversion put the All Blues ahead 14-10.

During the final 10 minutes of the half, Berkeley added tries from wing Emma Harbage (Miller conversion) and inside center Frieda Fetu’u, and North Shore outside center Meredith Hildreth dotted down, 26-15.

Berkeley flyhalf Bulou Mataitoga made sure the first score of the second half came from her side, and she followed with a second try before 10 minutes elapse. Cai and reserve Delaney Chapman further built onto the lead with tries for a 41-15 victory.

For more information on current standings, visit wplrugby.org.