A rematch of the Northeast women’s DII championship will occur tomorrow at nationals, as Portland and Burlington duke it out for fifth place. Both teams struggled to score points today, but Portland’s 17-10 win was a result of working the bench.
“We started our newer players to get them some experience and get them a chance to play in the tournament,” Portland forwards captain Tracey Toner. “In the second half, we put in some of our senior players round out the squad. We needed to even out the experience level. We faltered a little bit in the first half and then dominated the second.”
But Memphis certainly kept it interesting. The South champion took the first lead when a blocked kick in Portland’s end set up some attacking phases that led to an unconverted try, 5-0.
Portland then took the lead and never relinquished it. The fullback kicked a loose ball ahead and it fortuitously rolled into the try zone, where flanker Elsbeth Paige-Jeffers beat all pursuers for the touch down. Flyhalf Jaime Madore made the difficult conversion, 7-5.
The next score originated from a 30-meter lineout that Portland drove to about the 15 meter. The ball then worked out to the backs and pretty passing series ended in Madore’s hands and the captain sliced through a disorganized defense for the try, 12-5.
Memphis pulled within two points when their outside center tore through the defense for a hard-earned try, 12-10.
But Portland prevented the comeback on the very next series. From the restart, Portland kept Memphis pinned in their end. Some quick hands down the line, a near knock-on and a kick ahead that somehow doesn’t go out of bounds ends in a try from wing Michelle Noone, 17-10.
“We were pretty evenly matched,” Toner said. “Our forwards were well matched and they had some great backs who made us work hard. They really challenged us in the breakdowns, and they’re a great rucking team. They forced us to step up our game.
“We were quicker in the sense that we played the ball fast, popped the ball out of rucks and mauls, and ran a lot of picks-and-goes,” Toner continued. “It’s our strength as a team and it keeps us dynamic. Our forwards can all fill into the backline; we’ve all got good hands and we like to play a quick game.”
Toner and team aren’t that excited to play Burlington considering it’s the third time this season the teams have played each other.
“The advantage is that we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Toner said. “We’re a faster team, and they have huge forwards. We’re small and quick, probably the smallest team that we’ve seen at this tournament. Against these larger teams, we have to work harder, but we’re faster, fitter and use our speed to score.”
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s 5th place match tomorrow.