Under Saturday’s threatening skies, the Morris Lady Lions U19 Rugby team defeated nationally-ranked Elizabeth High School Rugby team to win the first ever official New Jersey State Girls Rugby Championship hosted by Rutgers University Rugby. In front of a crowd of over three hundred spectators at the Busch Campus Athletic Complex, the young and fast Morris team was able to focus play on their fast back line and overcome Elizabeth’s powerhouse forward-oriented game.
Elizabeth struck first, four minutes into the game, touching down for 5 points. The next 15 minutes of play were full of nervous energy and small mistakes by both teams; neither team was able to move the ball far from the center of the field. But in the 23rd minute, with help from her centers, Tess Feury scored a try. Feury’s conversion attempt failed, and the game was tied 5-5. Less than 3 minutes later, Morris scored. After missing another difficult conversion, Morris held a 10-5 lead.
The remainder of the game was a classic duel of styles with Morris seeking to get the ball out to the backs, and Elizabeth’s forwards keeping the ball in hand and repeatedly crashing into the smaller Morris pack. By halftime, the score was tied 10-10.
The second half kicked off with both teams feeling the pressure of the tie score. The opening minutes of play were intense and energetic as both teams traded midfield possession several times. In the 12th minute Morris scored a try and successful conversion giving them a 17-10 lead.
Just three minutes later, Elizabeth was in possession of the ball and in control of the midfield. While trying to give their forwards a moment’s rest, they sent the ball out to their backline, where Feury cherry-picked the ball in flight and sprinted 60 meters through open space to score her third try under the posts. Feury made the conversion and Morris went ahead 24-10.
Elizabeth refocused on their forward-oriented game plan. In the 18th minute Elizabeth’s Lenahj Graham punched through the Morris defense for a try, bringing the score to 24-15.
With just minutes to play, the score 29-20, the exhausted Morris forwards did all they could to slow the powerhouse Elizabeth attack. Nadiyah Marrow of Morristown led by example with exemplary goal-line defense while exhorting her team to focus on not allowing any more points. Elizabeth earned two last-minute 5-meter scrums but was unable to get the ball through. The game ended with a final score of 29-20 in favor of Morris. It was a game well played by both sides that produced no injuries and no sanctions for foul play.
It was a tremendous win for a young Morris side that includes five middle school athletes: Sharkey, Nagie, Stumpf, J. Cowan, and Svaasand, and injured player Meghan Martin. Roxbury High School senior and team captain Maura Smith received the player of the game honors for her on-field leadership.