(Photo: Big first-half effort helped Atlanta to shutout win. Eiden Herring photo).
Atlanta began with what seemed like a strong win during week two of the CR3 women’s DI club season: 31-0 shutout over Albany in New York. But coach Jason Payne was less than enthused with the victory.
“It wasn’t great, to be honest,” Payne said. “We started well, through the first 25-30 minutes, but then we dropped off. Albany started get stronger through their pack and we helped them out. We have a lot of work to do.”
The Harlequins laid it on thick through the majority of the first half, and quick-ball allowed the outside attack to break through the line to the try zone. Wing Emily Smith was particularly potent and scored two tries, while forwards’ Woman of the Match Tia Blosser, backs’ Woman of the Match Jess Wooden and Tristan Likes all added five-pointers. Flyhalf Heather Hale handled the conversions.
Down 24-0 at half, Albany regrouped and started pressuring the visitors, forcing turnovers and stealing possession.
“We just don’t have the continuity with the ball right now,” Payne said. “Their forwards upped their intensity in the breakdown, counter-rucked a lot and slowed down our ball. We got a little looser with the ball, made some bad decisions and turned it over a few times in contact. They put a lot more pressure on us in the second half and we lost our shape.”
There weren’t a whole lot of options for subs, as Atlanta traveled with 20 players. Only two or three A side players couldn’t make the trip, but the depth wasn’t there.
“We have a few players who are new additions, but they’re still working into our systems of play,” Payne said. “They’ll get better.”
The pack is almost entirely different from the one that took the pitch in 2011. Recent University of Georgia grad Amonae Dabbs-Brown has been a welcome addition to the loose forwards. Payne was happy to have Wooden, who impressed evaluators during the Eagles’ high performance camp this summer, back from the injury list, and was pleased with Smith’s ability to finish.
Payne indicated that there about six players still coming through, and he hopes to be at full strength come fall.
“We didn’t give up, which was good, but we didn’t play for a full 80 minutes,” Payne said. “I was a little disappointed, but they were also disappointed in themselves. Still, it was a big improvement from a couple of weeks ago, but we’ll need the next couple of weeks to get everyone up to speed – especially as we prepare for Philly’s big pack [next weekend].”
Even though Atlanta only scored one try in the second half, the defense didn’t relent and kept the shutout intact. While there is some work to be done, Atlanta got a good start to their season and remain one of the top teams to beat in the region.