Both NOVA and Boston started their DI club season with 14-point wins, as the Virginia side defeated Philadelphia 41-27, and Boston topped Providence 33-19. All but Providence earned a bonus point.
For NOVA, the win was never a certainty. In the first half, the visitors built an early lead off tries from outside center Mo McQueen, flanker Megan Hanson and wing Erica Cavanaugh, who scored a hat trick on the day. Lauren Hoeck added a conversion for the 19-0.
But Philadelphia fought back admirably and noted three tries of their own before the break.
“I knew this was going to be a tough game for us,” NOVA coach Brian Walker said. “I know the type of quality coach Bob Weir is after seeing what he has done with MARFU these last two years. So I'm not surprised Philadelphia is getting stronger every year.”
Philadelphia’s forwards posed the most trouble for NOVA. The home-team pack outweighed NOVA’s and were particularly adept at grinding out phases and controlling possession.
“Bob and I talked afterward, and we both said the same thing to our teams at halftime,” Walker said. “It was all going to come down to possession, who could maintain it, and who could finish their opportunities. Both teams were very fit, but the conditions were oppressive – 95 degrees with high humidity – and it took a toll on both sides as the game wore on.”
NOVA answered the call and saw Hanson, Cavanaugh (2) and Hoeck, who also added two conversions, extend their side’s lead to 41-17. Philly tacked on two late tries in the fourth quarter.
“I was really proud of the whole team for the way they battled the conditions and executed the game plan,” Walker said. “The forwards were extremely unselfish. They made tackle after tackle against the larger Philly pack, and didn't get to show off all the things they can do on offense. And the backs did a great job of creating breaks, finishing, and taking care of the ball in contact.”
NOVA will need to improve their defensive continuity before taking on Boston this weekend, but Walker is happy with the team’s progress thus far.
“Player for player, we are as fast as any team in the league,” Walker said. “Our challenge is to integrate some of our new players into the side, and get everyone quality reps at practice and in games. Because we had two teams at 7s nationals, and a number of players at 7s NASCs, we have had less practice time to make the transition to 15s. We try to give players a short break after the 7s season ends, but we need to make sure everyone is switched on and focused on the fall season now. Some of the teams that have less of a 7s tradition may have a jump on us in terms of practice time, so we have to work hard to make up that stagger.”
Fellow CR3 teams Albany, Atlanta and Village Lions will all play in their first league games this weekend, and the region will have a general idea of teams’ strengths.