This summer’s ongoing battle between NOVA and the D.C. Furies has already produced some of the season’s most exciting games. The teams met three times in June, producing a 32-26 combined scoreline (to D.C.). Two of those matches have decided a tournament winner, and last weekend’s Ruggerama fell into that category.
Down 5-0 at the half, NOVA relied on its defense and uptick in aggressive counter-rucking to turn the momentum in their favor and produce a 12-5 victory. At the center of it all, perhaps a little lower on the horizon than you’d first look, was Megan “5-0” Hanson.
“She is the heart and soul of the team,” NOVA captain Meganne Atkins said of the 31-year-old veteran. “If you’ve ever seen NOVA play, then you probably remember her. And if you’ve ever played NOVA, then you definitely remember her. Megan is almost always one of the smallest players on the field, but she is also one of the biggest hitters on the field.”
Hanson has been playing rugby for a decade, and nine of those years have been with NOVA. In between seasons as the Virginia side’s resident strongside flanker, she has booted up for the senior MARFU 15s and 7s team, as well as Atlantis, with Emil Signes as her mentor. Throughout her decade of play, no matter the team or version of the game, Hanson has established her reputation as a voracious, sound tackler. She acknowledges, however, that it’s not just natural ability that makes a good hitter.
“Sevens is way more intimidating,” Hanson reflected on the style of tackling. “Fifteens tackling, for my little self, is all about stepping into my opponent’s space, using a squeeze-and-lift tactic to get the big women off balance, and then driving them to ground. In 7s, the open field and fancy footwork of most 7s players makes the tackle much more difficult. In 7s, I’m much more disciplined and cautious when tackling, and focus on my opponent’s hip when tracking. I use the force of my constantly driving legs against my opponent’s striking pace to finish the hit. Some love to score; I love to hit!”
Clearly, because no one who had luke warm feelings about tackling could describe the act so clinically, and yet passionately. But what was it about Hanson’s performance at Ruggerama that made her stand out among her teammates and consequently named RugbyMag.com’s Women’s Player of the Week?
“Although she' known for her tackling, Megan has the unique ability to make the entire team better defensively,” Atkins said. “She is the spark that ignites our defense, and strong defense is what has won us a lot of close matches, including this weekend against the Furies.”
So it’s not just Hanson’s opponents who feel the impact of a big hit; it resonates with her teammates, and she helped engineer a fantastic come-from-behind win and tournament title.