Put a check-mark in the Win column for Wisconsin Women’s Rugby! With a physical and hard-fought game this past Saturday, we were able to pull off our first win as a Division 1 team after defeating the Minnesota Valkyries 40-17.
It wasn’t until a little over halfway into the first half that a try was allowed from either team, and although the Valkyries were the first to score, it didn’t come easy. Wisconsin managed to fend them off from getting too close to our zone by powering through numerous scrums and pulling off big hits that stopped breakaways in their tracks.
Minnesota had great pressure on us as well, pushing forward and keeping a steady wall that was tough to penetrate to get into their zone. A few penalties allowed some wiggle room for 8-man and forwards captain Grace Hovde to get clear kicks off and continue our momentum forward. Minnesota patiently moved the ball further into our zone after winning a line-out, and the first try was scored. Kick no good, Valkyries up 5-0.
Wisconsin was quick to answer, though, as Grace powered her way back up the field to set up outside center and backs captain Ashley Shaw, who was then able to outwork a couple of Valkyries to get a try of her own. #CaptainConnection. Flyhalf Elisa Becker made the kick, good guys now up 7-5.
Becker then also quickly took back possession after the resetting kick, and after some handiwork from Shaw and wing Bree Valenza, hooker Emily “Mouth” Mastandrea was able to punch in a try. Becker again with the made conversion, extending our lead to 14-5.
Minnesota wasn’t giving up yet, however; they kept up the pressure and found some gaps in our defense to get back onto the board. Conversion kick for them no good, we held them to 14-10 at the half.
Coming out of the half, keeping a level head, cleaning up our passes, and staying in support of each other were our big goals, and we soon followed through on all of them. We took some big (late) hits that left Minnesota to play with 14 on their side, but they still were able to utilize space efficiently to get in their last try and conversion kick of the game. Valkyries now with the 17-14 lead.
Minnesota continued to maintain possession of the ball until fullback Sybil Levine got her hands on it and made a terrific run back into Valkyrie territory for the try. Missed conversion kick, and Wisconsin took a narrow lead, 19-17.
Minnesota once again came up with pressure and knocked us briefly back on our heels, until a knock-on gave us possession back and we ran it back all the way to their 10 meter line. A scrum allowed for rookie flanker Laura Adams to run it in for the try and Becker’s conversion, 26-17.
Restarting play after that try, Adams received the kick-off and made an excellent off-load to Hovde who ran it all the way in for her own score. If you blinked you missed it, but back-to-back tries and made conversions extended our lead 33-14.
Minnesota again went down to 14 players after a high tackle call was made, resulting in a red card, and flanker Lauren McCormack then had a great steal off a line-out to get possession back. The ball made its way out to rookie prop Tamara Wade and she drove it in for our final try. Becker again pulled through, Wisconsin 40, Minnesota 17.
In the final minutes of play, the Valkyries brought it back to inside our 5 meters, but we had players on the try line ready and waiting to hold it up. A stolen scrum from Wisconsin got the ball out, and we booted it out of bounds to end the game. The whistle blew, and we have our first win in Division 1!
Next up: WWRFC vs. Chicago North Shore in Illinois this coming Saturday!
Player of the Match: Ashley Shaw (Backs Captain, Outside Center)
Minnesota’s Pick for Player of the Match: Sybil Levine (Fullback)