As one would expect, an incredibly physical match ensued between the Sacramento Amazons and Downingtown for 7th place at the Girls’ High School Championship. What one might not expect was Downingtown’s resiliency on defense and ability to disrupt to hold off a late comeback. The Pennsylvania team held onto a 15-12 win.
The game began in Sacramento’s end, and Downingtown tried without success to pierce the Zons’ defense, which is pretty solid within their own 10 meter. Sacramento looked to be out of trouble when they stole possession in the ruck, but some indecision led to a flat pass that outside center Kara Kolarfor intercepted for the try, 5-0.
Downingtown was back in Zons’ territory a few minutes later, thanks to some favorable penalties and long kicks to touch. Downingtown moved the ball away from contact as quickly as possible all game and sent it wide to wing Alexandra Hoffman, who found some room down the sideline. The forwards eventually set up a drive walking toward the line, and lock Alexandra Lawson broke off and dotted down unguarded, 10-0.
Downingtown got some nice strikes from fullback Carly Waters, who was integral to smothering several Amazon breakaways. Flanker Arden Blumenthal was also able to pierce the Amazon defense. Sacramento has some big, strong runners with good steps, but their backline as a whole was rarely set steeply, and they relied on strikers like flanker Ana Polaulu and No. 8 Melelea Tausinga to make significant ground forward – and they did so, nearly every time they touched the ball.
The big hits continued on either side of the ball, and while Downingtown didn’t flag, they were starting to show some fatigue. Desperate kicks ahead to balls on the ground and sloppy offloads, and that allowed the Amazons to build some momentum into the half.
With 23 minutes left in the game, Polaulu made a huge break from the 50 meter, fending Downingtown players left and right. The flanker only had Waters to beat, and she didn’t. She stopped the try but incurred a penalty, which Tausinga tapped through then dragged several players with her as she dove over the line, 10-5.
The majority of play in the third quarter was played in Downingtown’s half, but when the Pennsylvania team finally got a chance to play in the other end, they made good on it. Penalties and big kicks again got Downingtown close, and a nice backline movement off the lineout saw inside center Mary Cate Madda score, 15-5.
The Amazons didn’t let up, and nor did Downingtown’s defense. Some subs came on and as fatigue set in during the teams’ longest match of the weekend, some players slipped off tackles. That was all the incentive Polaulu needed to have another go at a linebreak. Too big and too strong, the flanker scored her second try of the game and Tausinga converted, 15-12.
As time wore down, the Amazons continued to threaten another score, but Downingtown held strong for the 7th place finish.
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