It was a make it or break it weekend for Beantown and Keystone. As the higher ranked teams went on to win their Women’s Premier League matches as expected (Berkeley 32-14 DC Furies, San Diego 37-5 New York, Twin Cities 48-0 Minnesota Valkyries), the two middle-ranked Red Conference team fought for the final berth to the final four in Virginia Beach, VA.
Heading into this weekend, Beantown trailed Keystone by four points in the standings, so at the very least, the Boston squad needed to win the game and prevent Keystone from earning a bonus point in the loss. Beantown had the edge in point differential, so tying points each worked in the visitors’ favor.
And that’s exactly what happened. Beantown defeated Keystone 19-10 and will now play in tier 1 of the WPL championships.
The two teams played each other in the first round of the season, and Keystone won 19-5. “I think the big difference between our first game and this one is the state of the rookies,” Beantown coach Richard Ashfield said. “We have some rookies who have grown immensely in a short time, so the speed and physicality of the game was not a surprise to them today.”
Beantown started well and put up their first points of the match when fullback Katie Dowty broke through the line and center Amy Daniels linked up for the final pass and try, 7-0. But then the visitors let up.
“We let Keystone right back in the game,” Ashfield said. “We sat back on defense and their big, hard-running forwards made a lot of yards, eventually scoring under the posts to make it 7-7.”
Beantown defended a lot in the second half, and while the Boston side prevented another first-half try, they did concede several penalties, one of which gave Keystone the lead into the break, 10-7.
Beantown retook the field with the wind to their backs and a slight downhill slope beneath their feet. When the team used the aforementioned to their advantage, Beantown were able to gain good ground and momentum. Penalties, however, continued to hamper the team.
Daniels put her side up 12-10 with another try early in the half, but then Beantown went right back to defending. With 10 minutes remaining, Keystone was still in position to advance to the final four, as they were only three points out of the lead. But then Dowty pierced the line and scored under the posts for the converted try. Flyhalf Kelly Seary booted the ball into their 22 anytime Beantown got the ball, and the defense did well to keep Keystone pinned in their half.
“It was an exciting game for the objective spectator; a very nerve-wracking game for anyone involved with either team,” Ashfield said. “Our big players stepped up when it was needed; Amy Daniels getting two scores and Katie Dowty. In the pack Mel Denham and Mari Wallace worked so hard at every breakdown and put in a crazy number of tackles.”
Yesterday’s win was a redemptive one for Beantown.
“It’s a huge deal for us,” Ashfield explained. “We lost a lot of key players this year and expected a rebuilding year. So many players played in their first year of club rugby or WPL rugby, and it is great for them to go up against the best players in the league and challenge themselves. It also helps with the focus and desire at practice in the next weeks. When it comes to the final, anything can happen on game day. We may have had a rocky season but who knows what may happen in Virginia Beach?”