In one of the best games of the day, ORSU held off NOVA 17-15 during the Women’s DI Club quarterfinals. Their first-ever victory over NOVA propels the CR1 champ into the semifinals against Philadelphia, which won their quarterfinal with a thrilling 28-23 overtime victory against reigning champ Chicago North Shore.
ORSU came out of the gates firing, marched down the field, and flyhalf Toni Fujiwara dotted down in the corner for the first try after five minutes. But then ORSU lost a little of their momentum.
“We were our own worst enemy,” ORSU player-coach Beckett Royce said. “Knock-ons, running out of bounds – there was a lack of ball retention. We played defense for 75 percent of the game; it was frustrating.”
NOVA ramped up the pressure and used their speedy, skilled backline to sustain an attack in ORSU’s end. ORSU had an edge in the forwards and was able to turn over several scrums. But that possession struggled to yield positive meters, as ORSU continued to hand the ball back over with unforced errors.
About 30 minutes in, NOVA evened it up 5-5.
“We kept our heads in the game – we were frustrated but not panicking,” Royce said of the errors. “I attribute those mistakes to NOVA’s pressure, but our defense was strong, and we only let in three tries. Also, we haven’t been in this close of a match all season. We’ve pretty much outscored opponents by at least 20 points. We’ve been able to get away with some stuff and it wouldn’t cost us, but NOVA’s backline was good.”
Royce herself was key to the defense. This season she’s played everywhere from No. 8, to flyhalf, and today at fullback. As player-coach, she decided that her experience and pace would be best utilized in the backfield, when NOVA’s backs inevitably broke through.
Before the half, ORSU put prop Adrienne Acosta into the tryzone for the 10-5 lead.
After the break, it took another 20 minutes, but ORSU extended their lead to 12 when inside center Anna Symonds scored and Royce converted.
But again, ORSU shot themselves in the foot, and the game started to unravel slightly as they sent their second player to the sin bin (NOVA had one yellow card as well), and NOVA took advantage of the overload. As the penalties at the breakdown continued, NOVA regrouped quickly and were able to ship the ball wide before ORSU could adjust, 17-10.
NOVA stayed on the front foot, and with a few minutes remaining, scored off a lineout when a defensive miscommunication allowed forwards to slip through the back. According to Beckett, the extra points were makeable, 17-15.
“I thought we were going to overtime, like the first game of the day,” Beckett said. “But they were kicking into the wind and missed it. I wanted the wind in the second half for that very reason; I knew they were going to score on us.”
Ninety seconds remained when Royce took the subsequent kickoff. The game ended when a NOVA penalty saw Royce kick to touch.
ORSU will see Philadelphia tomorrow in the semifinals. Unfortunately for the CR3 team, they had to play an extra 20 minutes in their overtime win, which will add to fatigue. Royce is confident that their depth – 26 players traveled – and the fact that some tight five players were able to rest today will aid them in tomorrow’s match.
“Philly will be tired, and we’ll have some fresh players coming in,” Royce said. “A double-header is so challenging when you don’t have depth, so at this stage in the finals, we’ll take what we can get.”