It was a whole lot of Beantown this past weekend at the Eric White Memorial 7s, the first of four Northeast Women’s Club 7s qualifiers this summer. But don’t be fooled – they weren’t all wearing the traditional red-and-blue. For the last few years, any Boston-area player who wanted to play serious 7s transitioned to the Boston Belles for the summer. This year, Beantown finally decided to field a competitive 7s team, but that didn’t mean all of the Belles alums stayed with their 15s club.
“Beantown decided to focus on fielding a competitive 7s side this year because we, as a club, decided that it's in our best interest to invest more resources in our 7s program and make it a little more structured than it has been in the past,” said Beantown president and acting player/coach Kelly Seary, who’s been getting help from Jackie Rompre and Rachel Milligan. “As you know, summer 7s can be a great way to recruit players and having a more competitive 7s program will be more of a draw for players as the sport continues to grow in popularity. We had hoped to have a coach in place to help us build the program, but we've yet to find someone suitable.”
At first glance, one might anticipate a conflict, as many Beantown players have filled out the Belles’ roster the last few years. Some have remained with the 7s-only club, while some alumni, Seary included, have opted to stick with their 15s club.
“There's no conflict to speak of,” Seary assured. “Everyone was free to make their own choice. Both clubs are supportive of one another, and last weekend we were all cheering for our friends, regardless of which jersey they were wearing, except maybe when we played each other.”
Boston Belles president Ali Pappas, who is also a Beantown player outside of the summer, concurred.
“The founding goal of the Belles was to elevate the level of women's 7s in the Boston area,” Pappas said. “That is still our goal today. Having other competitive teams in the area like Beantown only helps to increase the quality of women's rugby. We're going to take every opportunity to play high-quality matches throughout the summer season to be as well prepared as we can for nationals. While it is always difficult to play our 15s teammates, whether they be on Beantown, Boston, the Ponies, or another 7s team, playing against them in the summer only makes me more excited to join them in the fall.”
Pappas and team got their wish last weekend, as the Belles faced down Beantown twice during the qualifier. Both contests went to Beantown, who got great performances out of Evan Hoese and saw Mel Denham, fresh off the USA Women’s team tests against France, impact the 7s field. The Belles were led by Alyssa Green, who received the Sportsman of the Tournament award, a recognition chosen by the referees and one that went to a woman for the first time in history.
So it was only fitting to see the two teams meet in the final, especially since there were only three sides (Morris from New Jersey was the third) competing in the NRU division. A fantastic battle evolved, and the Belles dotted down the only first-half points, courtesy of Danielle Miano. But then Hoese evened it up in the second half and a second try awarded Beantown the 12-5 win and 24 series points.
“It was the most challenging match of the day,” Belles coach Amy Daniels said. “However, I was very pleased with the Belles' performance overall throughout the tournament. There were several key moments when a few Belles players chased down a sideline break so relentlessly that a Beantown player was tackled and driven out of the back of the try zone. The Belles defensive presence was admirable and well demonstrated during that game. I was extremely pleased given that we are working a variety of combinations and we had a few youngsters in the mix. The fact that players can step on the pitch and be substituted without a decline in defensive pressure ensures that the principles we focus on at practice are carrying over to our games.”
The Belles and Beantown have stated their case as the teams to beat throughout the NRU 7s Series. That means we’ll likely see the Boston bout replay several times throughout the summer, and probably in the finals.
Northeast Women’s Club 7s Standings
Beantown – 24 pts
Boston Belles – 20 points
Morris – 16 points