Beantown won the Women’s Premier League third place match over San Diego in convincing fashion, dominating the Surfers 34-7. It’s been a long trip for the Boston squad, which endured a rebuilding season and nearly missed out on tier one competition. The team suffered a heartbreaking 29-25 loss to Twin Cities in the semifinals, but rebounded nicely on Sunday.
“It was a strange sensation,” Beantown coach Richard Ashfield reflected on Friday’s game. “We were obviously upset to lose but a lot of players came off feeling they really achieved something. This is a development season for us; we have a lot of young players. For them to come where they’ve come was really exciting and they understand that. As tough as it is to lose, with five minutes left in the game, they got a lot from it and they know how well they played, so it was good.
“We talked a lot all year about this game being our best of the season,” Ashfield said of the final game of the year. “Friday was our best game of the season and we had to top that, so we’re really happy how far we’ve come as a team.”
The Beantown forwards set the tone for the match right from the kickoff. Led by No. 8 Mel Denham, hooker Mari Wallace and prop Sharon Wacht, the pack was voracious in the breakdowns and frustrated the San Diego offense with turnovers. Ashfield was particularly pleased with the work of lock Jen Cotton, who had a fantastic game.
“Beantown’s known for its forward work,” Ashfield said. “We’re very physical. We knew the style of game they like to play is really open and expansive, so we had to keep them in tight and get them out of their comfort zone. We’ve got some really experienced forwards, and they kept it all tight. It was nice.”
The backs’ defense put a lot of pressure on San Diego as well, coming up hard and making that pass out wide difficult.
“The Surfers’ defense was really fast and pushed us very hard, so we had to work hard to get any kinds of breaks,” Ashfield said. “Our defense was good bar one lapse for a try. All weekend we played as a complete team so I was really happy.”
San Diego stifled themselves, as the halfback connection could not find rhythm. So many attacking opportunities were squandered as outlet passes struggled to reach flyhalf Marea Blue. It was incredibly frustrating for a potent backline that couldn’t build any momentum.
Beantown found itself in scoring position early on as wing Kate Orlin kicked ahead down the sideline. San Diego wing Val Griffeth fielded the kick cleanly but didn’t clear well into touch. From the lineout, Beantown worked some solid forward phases toward the tryline and flanker Emily Jones finally dove over the line for the try. Jones converted her score for the 7-0 lead.
The majority of tries looked similar to the first. Some nice linebreaks from fullback Katie Dowty or a clearing kick from flyhalf Kelly Seary but Beantown into scoring position, then a series of quick forward phases got the team inside the 22 meter. Whenver Beantown was within 10 meters of the tryline and awarded a penalty, a scrum or eventual driving maul touched down in the try zone. Denham dotted down two tries and Wallace also dove over.
San Diego wasn’t without its high points. San Diego had been losing yardage on backline movements from set pieces, and it looked like they were going to take another loss as a flat line worked the ball to Griffeth. But the wing put a positive spin on the series, took the corner then kicked ahead. Seary was positioned perfectly for the receipt but returned with a crosskick right into San Diego’s grasp. From the 50 meter, the Surfers put some pretty open field phases together with flanker Shaina Turley inserting nicely for gains near the sideline. Eventually enough room opened up for Griffeth to take another wide pass into the try zone. Inside center Kirstin Hartos made the difficult conversion.
But 12-7 was the closest San Diego would ever get. Before the half, Beantown walked in another try with Denham touching down for the 19-7 lead and tacked on three more tries from Denham and Cotton before the final whistle sounded. Although the San Diego defense never let up, heads started to droop as more unforced errors dampened spirits.
San Diego should be proud of its first season in the Women’s Premier League and can count a regular-season win over finalists Twin Cities and a close 17-7 loss to champions Berkeley. We should continue to see good things from the Surfers, as well as Beantown, who have initiated many of their promising rookies.