(Photo: Boston forwards set the tone for Saturday's win.)
If you’re surprised to see Boston atop the CR3 women’s DI club standings – don’t be. The team that didn't win a single regular-season game last year is 2-1, and the transformation has been brought about by new coach Paul Harrop. Boston looked good during their 47-20 win over the Village Lions in New York last weekend, and the progress just keeps on coming.
“We’re a very different team now,” said Harrop, who joined Boston two games into 2011's league season. “We focus a lot on aggression – in the breakdown, especially. We like to get in arm wrestle, and as a result of winning those turnover opportunities, we’re gaining momentum.”
The match itself was scrappy in the first and final quarters, and that's where the Village Lions were able to run in tries. But the meat of the match belonged to Boston. The forwards were impressive and retained their ball well. Lock Stacy Powell had great go-forward and seemed to win every contact point she entered. Prop Chantal Lavoie also continued her bull-dozing ways through the fringe and kept Boston moving forward.
The backs were trying some new things as well. Former USA U20 Eagle Miranda Wakimoto moved from fullback to flyhalf, and she did a great job of launching the backline. When the ball made it out to wing Emily Malkin, she did well to slip through the defense, especially on the weakside.
“We were much more fluid in the backs than we’ve been historically,” Harrop said. “The defense didn’t press us as hard as the other teams, so we had a little more free range. We have confidence in our backs; we have a couple of [Boston] Belles players and some other great options.”
Boston has had to make do without Belles star Danielle Miano, who is out with a broken ankle. She has the best finishing speed on the team.
“We still need to work on hitting the line at pace,” Harrop said. “We worked hard on getting width and speed, but we’ve been caught on our back foot in the backline.”
In the middle of it all was scrumhalf Stacey Markovic. The halfback did an excellent job delivering good ball out of any breakdown, and has a remarkable boot for sideline conversions.
In the end, Powell, Malkin, Wakimoto, Lavoie, and loose forwards Sarah Appleton and Julie Athanasiadis, and replacement center Carly Massey dotted down tries, while Markovic slotted six of seven conversions. The Lions saw No. 8 Jess Houser, wing Katy Nishimoto, scrumhalf Kim Dacres and inside center Rosie Rough score tries.
The win was a nice boost for Boston, which was still recovering from a bitter loss to NOVA. In that match, Boston had the ball meters out from the tryline with two minutes to go. Had the team gone to the weakside, they would have scored and potentially drawn (match was 31-26 to NOVA at that point). Instead, Boston didn’t seal the ruck, it was turned over, and NOVA returned the ball for the final try, 36-26.
“We won the forward game, but they won the back game,” Harppo recalled. “Three of their tries came from unforced errors on our part, so you take those out, and we start to look good.”
Too late – Boston is already looking good, and they’re only getting better.