Texas' dream season came to an end today when Virginia Women’s Rugby ousted the South champion 26-5 during the first round of the DI National Championship. Virginia advances through to the round of eight against Brown, which defeated North Carolina 62-5 today.
The first quarter belonged to Texas, as the fast, large team retained possession in Virginia’s 22 meter. Virginia did a good job of repelling a long goal line stance and eventually pushed UT back to midfield. But the extra running room proved a boon to the Longhorns, who took the ball weakside off the ruck, got around wing Brianna Kim and dotted down in the corner, 5-0.
“Texas is not small; it was a tough game,” Virginia coach Nancy Kechner said. “They’re a good rucking team, really physical, with big, fast backs. We might not be the most talented team, but we’re mentally strong. Sharlyn Carter is really our only amazing player; otherwise, it’s 15 kids all doing the same thing together.”
Under the guidance of captain MC Anderson, Virginia didn’t panic with the deficit. The team was missing star scrumhalf Cam Boland, who was medically ineligible due to a concussion that forced the Canadian to drop two classes. Starting hooker Emily Mastandrea moved to the halfback position after Boland’s injury in late February, and performed wonderfully on the day.
Texas, however, started to incur the wrath of the referee. Texas’ tighthead prop was yellow-carded for deliberately lifting straight up in the scrum. The player advantage allowed Carter to take the ball 65 meters, fending would-be tacklers and spinning out of contact for the try. Katie Estep converted the score and set up Kim for the next try.
Virginia went up 12-5 into break and then got some second-half help from Texas’ lack of discipline.
“We had the wind at our back in the second half, and Texas got two more sin bins,” Kechner said. “At one point, it became a blood bath, but the referee got some control.”
Carter scored again and No. 8 Leah Berry added a five-pointer. Estep had three conversions on the day.
“We were really looking forward to this game, and it was fun,” Kechner said. “By the end of the game, their fullback, who was really fast, big and rangy, had a tough day at the office.”
Tomorrow, Virginia will see Brown, a familiar opponent. Last year, the two met at the round of eight, and it took double overtime for Virginia to advance to the semifinals.
“We love playing Brown; they’re really similar to us,” Kechner said. “They’re athletic, well coached, smart, and play an exciting brand of rugby. We graduated 12 starters from last year’s team, so we’ll go out there and play our best.”
The Virginia v Brown game kicks off at 3 p.m. in Mobile, Ala.