All of the Red Conference teams won their Women’s Premier League semifinal today, and the conference leader, Twin Cities, led the way with a 43-10 win over Beantown. The Amazons will head to the final and attempt to strip the title from two-time reigning champ Berkeley, which beat Glendale 27-10 to advance.
Twin Cities sprinted to a 26-0 halftime lead but the majority of those points occurred during a span of a few minutes, when the Amazons capitalized on some momentum before Beantown could ground itself. The scoring began early on, as flyhalf Rebecca Radtke and Lynelle Kugler reminded everyone what great chemistry they share. About 10 meters out, Radtke drifted across the goaline defense, and just as her opposite planted her shoulders into the her chest, the flyhalf popped a pass over the tackler’s head to an oncoming Kugler, who was perfectly splitting the defense. Radtke hit the first of her four conversions for the 7-0 lead.
That flat pass to Kugler is a dangerous weapon. She reads the gaps perfectly and hits the line at great pace, but the timing wasn’t always there today. When it was – she was gone and fending her way out of contact; when it wasn’t, a knock-on or turnover resulted. Beantown outside center Evan Hoese defended well and squared up against the Eagle on several occasions.
Although Twin Cities was playing fast and in the groove, the game was not out of hand.
“Beantown always plays really physical in the forwards, so you expect every scrum to be hard, every contact point is going to be tough,” Twin Cities coach Roger Bruggemeyer said. “They’re really good in the lineouts because they’re really good maulers – and they were today. That’s been their strong point – not that their backs aren’t good, but you always expect their forwards to get you.”
Twin Cities’ forwards are good, too, and flanker Amanda Kingzett was especially gritty today. Charging into rucks and chopping down ballcarriers, the openside was inspirational.
The show-stopper occurred midway through the first half, when three tries dotted down in a few minutes. Sylvia Braaten’s try came from another Radtke-Kugler flat pass; the first of Lisa Dusbabek’s two scores came after Radtke sent a line-drive kick over the Beantown backs’ heads, Kugler scooped it up and hit the wing in quick support; and the third was a nice individual effort from young fullback Jacie Vonada, who raced 50 meters for the score. The latter is also a great weapon inserting into the line and making good use of space in the kick counterattack.
Down 26 points before the half, Beantown seemed deflated. The fringe defense was less eager and let punches around the breakdown gain a little more yardage; kicks to touch were staying inbounds – or even worse, landing in the hands of Kaelene Lundstrum or Vonada. But the time ticked off, Amazons flanker Meg Krug was yellow-carded, and Beantown regrouped in the break.
The pep talk worked, as Beantown ran in two quick tries to start the second half. The first came after a gutsy linebreak from Hoese and eventually ended with No. 8 Mel Denham diving over. The Eagle loose forward accounted for the second try, which came from a penalty that worked wide and into the corner, 26-10.
“There’s always anxiety there as a coach,” Bruggemeyer said. “My biggest concern was that our tackling was just off today – too many missed tackles. Every time you miss a tackle against a good team, they’re going to break your line and then you’re in trouble. That’s just a mental thing, something we’ll talk about, to just stay focused.”
But the upturn was short-lived as Twin Cities marched back to the opposite 22 meter. From a Beantown scrum, flyhalf Kelly Seary sent a crossfield kick into the arms of Lundstrum, who was isolated with a lot of room in front of her. Beantown wing Ashley Clancy – who barely, if at all, touched the ball on offense today – did her best with a ballcarrier who is twice her size and so powerful at top speed, but Lundstrum won that battle to the tryline.
Dusbabek dotted down again after supporting a Kugler linebreak. And Morgan Johnson was the happy recipient of five points, which would have only been three had Radtke made the previous penalty attempt. The result was a 22-meter dropout, which Stacey Bridges blocked. Some phase play to the line eventually opened up a gap only big enough to dive through, and Johnson did, 43-10.
“We try to play a well rounded game but we try to take what the other team gives us,” Bruggemeyer said. “We were getting a vertical game going, and their forwards were getting contained, and that gave us space outside. Eventually if anybody gets that space outside you’re going to score – I don’t care what team you are – but we got some nice breaks. The forwards did all the work to get that – which is classic rugby, right? Forwards do all the work and backs get all the glory. The forwards worked really hard because they knew they had to work as a group to get the ball back.”
If there’s more glory to be had? That question will be answered on Sunday, when Twin Cities takes on Berkeley for the trophy. Beantown will return to the 3rd place match against Glendale. Both sets of teams have played each other twice this fall.
Twin Cities 43
Tries: Dushbabek 2, Kugler, Braaten, Vonada, Lundstrum, Johnson
Convs: Radtke 4
Tries: Denham 2