Beantown and New York didn’t begin their Women’s Premier League season in ideal fashion. Both had opportunities to win their respective openers, but fell a couple of scores short of the wins. As the two Northeast rivals prepared for Sunday’s showdown, Beantown spent the previous week focusing on team defense and chemistry, and those two assets helped produce a 38-7 victory in Week 2.
“The first week is always tough ... and we didn’t have a pre-season game,” Beantown coach Richard Ashfield reflected on the Week 1 loss. “There were a lot of positives, but there were also a lot of mental lapses. The big thing we wanted to focus on was working out our defensive system – and you could see it come together against New York. [Against Glendale] We were still a little disjointed, being early in the season. We fell off some tackles – and when you’re playing against big forwards, once they’re behind you, it’s hard to bring them down. On the flip side, our offense was very good; we scored some fantastic team tries and had a really high work rate.”
Eager to take a Week 2 win back to Boston, Beantown initiated the game with an opening-minutes try for a 5-0 lead. New York settled down and piled on the pressure for the rest of the half. The hosts were rewarded with a Mary McCarthy penalty to pull within two, while Beantown continued to buckle down on their goal line.
Repelling the New York attack lifted Beantown’s spirits, and before the half ended, wing Alyssa Green crossed for a try and Kelly Seary hit the extras for the 12-3 lead. New York responded immediately and got their lone try of the game from Lisa Roselin, 12-8.
Anybody’s game at this point, but Beantown got a special boost for the second half.
“We were able to bring Mel [Denham] off the bench and she made a big impact,” Ashfield considered the turning point of the match. “We started to get more go-forward; we put pressure on their scrum, and they struggled with first-phase ball. We were scrappy, had good intensity, work rate was high throughout. Both teams started to tire but we had a little extra gas in the tank.”
Ashfield acknowledged flyhalf Kelly Seary for the managing the game well, and praised Green and Jenny Kuchar for two solid, consecutive games on the wing. Denham, as mentioned, made her presence known in the forwards, and Collegiate All American Lily White impressed at flanker during her first appearance for Beantown.
Denham, White, Kuchar and Kate Orlin accounted for the four second-half tries, and Emily Jones slotted a penalty for the 37-8 victory.
The win did more than afford five points to Beantown’s standings; it was a nice confidence boost for a young, developing squad.
“We lost some valuable experience, some depth,” Ashfield lamented the loss of key players like Mari Wallace and Katie O’Malley, “but we have some good, young players coming up. They’re an unknown entity right now, but they’ve been stepping up so far and are embracing Beantown’s way of doing things.”
New York is in a similar situation but their quality of depth is up for question.
“New York has fantastic numbers; a little inexperienced but a lot of talent,” Ashfield said. “They’ll be a tough opponent later in the season, when their younger players get more WPL experience.”
Fortunately, the WPL enjoys a bye week this weekend, so while the recovery time is important, the extra week of preparation allows the coaching staff to focus on more in-depth issues, as opposed to focusing on the next game.
“Our big issue is getting our team chemistry,” Ashfield said. “At times it was great; other times it was disjointed. That comes with practicing together.”
Beantown’s been playing this game for a long time, so Ashfield and players keep their goals on game-to-game improvements with the objective of peaking on finals weekend. And they hope to peak in the WPL final, despite the long road they have to get there.