One of the best games of the day during the women’s Premier League and DI championships in Virginia Beach occurred during the WPL’s tier 1 semifinals. The Beantown vs Twin Cities needed all 80 minutes before deciding who was heading to the final Sunday, and the Amazons secured their spot with a 29-25 win.
“Everybody came through, nobody got hurt, and we won, so I’m happy as hell,” Amazons coach Roger Bruggemeyer beamed after the win. “At this point in the season, if you win, then you’re happy.”
The first 10-15 minutes was a little disjointed for the Amazons, and Beantown took advantage. The Boston side went up 5-0 early on after flyhalf Kelly Seary sent a lovely kick ahead to the five meter. Beantown ended up stealing possession from the subsequent lineout and dove over for the try.
Beantown maintained a lot of possession, and although Twin Cities were getting nice linebreaks from centers Braaten and Lynelle Kugler, the Zons couldn’t get on the board. That is, until the 35th minute. Flyhalf Rebecca Radtke noted the heavy sliding defense, got her shoulder passed her tacklers, and hit Sylvia Braaten bursting straight through the line before offloading to wing Kaelene Lundstrum to finish off the effort, 5-5.
Twin Cities kept the momentum going and right before the break, and from a scrum in Beantown’s territory, lock Stacey Bridges dove over for the try, 10-5.
“Stacey Bridges was a monster out there,” Bruggemeyer said. “She was textbook on our second and third strikes off of breakdowns. Our weakside flanker, Morgan Johnson, really stepped up, too. Everybody was playing well—and you have to. If you have a weakness, then the other team will burn you.”
There the half ended, and where it also began. The Zons scored again when Kugler muscled her way into the try zone (15-5). Beantown then mounted a great comeback, which would eventually see them take a five-point lead.
“We had some defensive breakdowns, which were hard for me to figure out,” Bruggemeyer reflected. “They discovered something, so every time they got the ball, they were taking advantage of us.”
Beantown went on to score three consecutive tries. The first came from wing Sally O’Mally, who played tremendous defense and had some nice breakaways down the line. She finished off a series that began with a long break from Katie Dowty. Center Amy Daniels kept the ball alive after the tackle, worked it back to Dowty, who passed to O’Malley for the finishing sprint to the corner. Emily Jones hit the conversion, 15-12.
Daniels found herself behind the gainline, and an errant pass saw the ball land in her hands. She tore into Zons’ territory and hit Dowty in support. The fullback held off Kugler for about five meters before falling over the try line, 17-15.
Beantown took the lead on a very lucky bounce. Seary’s penalty kick to touch fell short but landed in unmarked territory. The flyhalf chased down her kick and it landed safely in her grasp while on the full burst. One fend later, and Beantown’s fourth try of the day saw them up 22-15.
Zons tied it back up when it converted a long goalline attack into a dive-over try, which fullback Dez Markovich converted. Beantown marched it back downfield,as O’Malley and Dowty worked another linebreak to the 22 meter. As the ball worked back toward the middle of the field, Seary slotted a pretty dropgoal for take the 25-22 lead.
“That was a beautiful dropgoal,” Bruggemeyer said. “I was worried that our younger players were going to get down on themselves and react to being scored on. But the players came and battled through that.”
As the minutes wound down, the Amazons held onto possession and marched toward Beantown’s 22 meter with a series of pick and goes. After a few attempts to attack the fringe, the ball worked to Radtke, who streaked across the defense, then fed Lundstrum coming in on an angle. She struggled through a couple of defenders and dove over for the winning points. Markovich added the extras for the 29-25 lead. A minute later, the whistle sounded.
“In terms of long-term growth of players, it’s good to play in a tight game,” Bruggemeyer said. “To work all the way through a game like that and actually get the win does a tremendous amount for their confidence.
“I’m really happy the way the forwards stuck to our pattern,” Bruggemeyer continued. “They played a nice physical game, which you have to do against Beantown. I wasn’t happy with our scrummaging but Beantown’s a good team, and we’ll work on that tomorrow.”
Bruggemeyer remained at the field to watch the Berkeley v San Diego game, which the All Blues won 17-7. He sent his players to the hotel for ice baths and more recovery, and looked forward to an evening reviewing All Blues’ film. Sunday will be an epic day for the Zons, who will be playing in their first WPL final.