Big scores out of the Women's Premier League yesterday, but it wasn't the point differentials that were interesting. Well, except in Twin Cities' case, as the Amazons posted unprecedented numbers against the reigning champ. Glendale's 42-point win saw a team rally through a penalty downward spiral and essentially guarantee its spot in the top tier of playoffs. And Beantown's shutout saw New York fall to 0-4, a record that no one would have predicted a couple of years ago.
And then there’s Atlanta, this year’s newcomer. The first time the Harlequins played San Diego this season, the Surfers won 27-5 in California. Yesterday’s rematch belonged to Atlanta, which not only banked a 45-12 win over San Diego, but also put their first WPL into the history books.
“The team was happy with the win, and we hope to use the momentum to continue to improve each week of the WPL season,” Atlanta president Ros Chou said.” We hope to continue to raise our level of play and would like to finish the season strongly.”
Atlanta struggled through the first round of league play, going 0-3 and having to take on two of the country’s best teams – Twin Cities and Berkeley – while key players like Liz Snodgrass, Tasha Mannino and Dana Jackson took 2013 off. San Diego isn’t in much better shape, having some trouble traveling and going 1-2 through round three.
But the Surfers are now veterans of the WPL, and even though they were light on the road, key playmakers like No. 8 Lauren Daly, outside center Emilie Bydwell (both of whom are in the Women’s Rugby World Cup pool) and flanker Cara Nocero made the trip.
“They play a fast-paced, wide game, so [coach] Jason Payne tailored our training to improve our defensive coverage.” Chou explained. “In our last meeting with them, we were beat outside the 13 channel against a team known for their 7s prowess. So, we did our best to make sure we had a defensive spread to minimize their effective attack.”
Atlanta’s Jess Wooden (also a WRWC pool player) got the scoring started three minutes in, accounting for the first of her two tries and five conversions. San Diego answered with an unconverted try, but that was the last of the Surfers’ scoring until game’s end.
New wing Judy Dickson, who is a Central Florida alum and graduate of the ARC Angels (Atlanta’s DII side), proved an excellent scoring weapon. She broke through the line with great success, worked an effective kick-and-chase, and dotted down two tries. Dickson was also a force on defense, shutting down San Diego’s outside attack.
Amanda Carrington and Jessica Peterson also scored tries, and those opportunities came out of the forwards’ ability to retain lots of possession – the most in the last three games, according to Chou. Prop Sharon Lau topped them all, earning Woman of the Match on the back of her high work rate and solid execution in the lineouts.
And one can’t ignore the influence of Heather Hale, who was originally part of that group taking a sabbatical, but who rejoined the team and brought her wealth of knowledge and experience to the backline.
A well rounded – and much needed – win for Atlanta. Next week, the Harlequins travel to Berkeley, which lost 46-8 to Twin Cities yesterday and will eager for redemption. San Diego hosts Twin Cities, the strongest team in the WPL’s Red Conference.