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Berkeley Champs - Full Report

Sunday Nov 9, 2008 in Women Clubs

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(Jossy Tseng, standing, in white, earns MVP nod. Alex Goff photo.)

November 9, 2008, Sanford, Fla. - The Berkeley All Blues held off a late surge from New York to take home the USA Rugby Club Championship title for the second consecutive year, as the Senior Women’s competition wrapped up at Seminole Sports Complex on Sunday afternoon.

Utilizing the full strength and speed of its backline, Berkeley was off to the races early, with wings Elaine Gardner and Nathalie Marchino breaking the New York defense for a try a piece within the first six minutes of the game. Try as they might, New York continued to attack but could not find enough of a gap to get on the board. Instead, inside 30 minutes, Berkeley would again find its way to the try zone to go up 20-0, with Stephanie Bruce converting her own try before booting a penalty to give her team an added boost.

Before the end of the first half New York gained some ground, as flanker Phaidra Knight fought through a wall of All Blues and powered in on the right side to get her team on the board inside 35 minutes. However, Berkeley had the last say before switching sides when Vix Folayan broke free for a try to send the teams to the sidelines at 25-5.

The physical intensity and tension only mounted in the second half as Berkeley sought to maintain its lead and New York eagerly pressed for a comeback, sending yellow cards flying in all directions – New York captain Rebecca Brafman the first to visit the sin bin (50 minutes) and Berkeley’s Tina Nesburg also seeing yellow at 65 minutes.

Turning the tables on Berkeley , with 10 minutes left, it was time for the New York wings to shine, as Jenna Flateman and Vanesha McGee gave the team a needed adrenaline rush, bolting in for two tries in under three minutes. Hedwig Aerts’ conversion cut the deficit to just eight points, but New York ’s resurgence would be cut short by the time clock and an emboldened All Blues defense, leaving the final score stuck at 25-17.

 “It was a long year of hard work, the team put in the hours on the practice field, in the gym, on the track and they worked together really hard so I am glad they were able to reach their goal today,” said Berkeley head coach Alex Williams, of the sweet end to her first season at the helm. “I think we played the defense we wanted for most of the game – we had a few lapses there but we achieved our aim of being an ‘unstoppable wall’ for enough of the game to get the victory. The team picked it up in the end and finished strong - I couldn’t be more proud of them.” 

Following the final match, Berkeley All Blues scrumhalf Jossy Tseng was named Championships MVP by USA Women’s National Team Coach Kathy Flores.

Earlier, the third place match between Beantown and the Minnesota Valkyries got off to an exciting start, as Beantown’s Kitt Wagner swatted down a Valkyries kick and went diving into the try zone to put the Boston team ahead with just over 10 minutes gone. Valkyries flyhalf Christy Ringgenberg kept her team close with a successful penalty kick but Beantown No. 10 Amy Daniels soon retaliated with another soaring Beantown try to keep the Valkyries at bay.

Beantown held steady at 17-3 heading into the second half, but Minnesota was not ready to go down without a fight, pushing through for two tries within the first six minutes of play following the break. From then on, however, Beantown started to gradually pull away from its opponent, scoring four unanswered tries before the end to bring the final tally up to 46-15

Keystone RFC came away from the weekend with some hardware, defending ferociously to narrowly escape the grasp of Northern Virginia to take the Plate, in a 12-7 final. Following an aggressive 40 minutes of play that spelled fairly even possession for both sides, the halftime scoreline remained locked at 0-0.

After the break, NOVA drew first blood, with Stacy Bennett breaking through for her team’s lone try and Lauren Hoeck booting the conversion inside the 6th minute. However, the Keystone team soon proved that although it was down, it was not way out, utilizing its increased depth and kicking game to take control of the game. Scrumhalf Kim Magrini boosted her team back into the game with a try at 53 minutes and Rachel Hammond notched the last try for either team before the 60th minute, with Ines Rodriguez kicking one conversion, to bring the tally to 12-7, where it remained until the end.

“We took our chances and played hard, especially in the second half. All credit to NOVA - they’re a great team and gave us some tough competition,” Keystone coach Peter Steinberg, whose team was down a few key players for the round of 16, due to conflicting National Sevens Team commitments.

The return of the 7s players “gave us greater depth and more options than in St. Louis , where we had to move players around to fill spots. While you would think their presence mainly increased our speed, above all they helped boost our kicking game,” Steinberg said.

In the Plate Consolation match between the Twin Cities Amazons and the Washington Furies, both teams kicked off to a scrappy beginning, aggressively sparring back and forth scoreless until the bitter end of the first half. Pinned deep into their end, the Amazons defended well but with no time left before the half, the Furies’ No. 8 Liz Dilley broke through for a try and the accurate conversion took the teams to the sidelines at 7-0.

Led by speedy center Ashley Mulford, who bolted in for three second-half tries, a recharged Twin Cities side emerged after the break, outscoring the Furies four tries to one in the final 40 minutes. Mulford got things started for the Amazons early in the second half with a try inside 46 minutes and another less than five minutes later that saw the No. 13 break through the Furies defense into the wide open, bolting 50 meters to touch down her second.

Mulford and teammate Colleen Tjosvold would each notch one more try before Washington was able to cap off one last offensive drive – the Furies closed out the match with a late surge to pull the final scoreline to 24-14, with Leanna Berger pushing over the line and Breanna Strand converting.

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