2017 USA Rugby Women’s DI & DII Fall Champions – Davenport & Winona State

The USA Rugby Women’s DI & DII Fall Championships were December 2-3 in Greenville, SC. Davenport unseated Notre Dame in the DI Championship 89-24 while Winona State tipped Vassar 38-36 in the DII Championship.

USA Rugby Women’s DI

Nerves were evident early on in the first moments of the game when Notre Dame dropped the opening kick off. Great line speed and pressure from Davenport’s defensive line sent Notre Dame back further and further into their own half. The pressure paid off and forced a Notre Dame error. Davenport was clinical from the set piece with a beautiful try from Danielle Ordway cutting through the defense like a hot knife through butter.

It didn’t take long for Ordway to get herself back in the action, off the ensuing kick off she ran the ball out from her own half to unselfishly offload the ball to her support. Their lead increased to 14 points after 5 minutes.

Notre Dame’s inability to get passed the advantage line hurt their chances of applying any pressure to Davenport, as the Fighting Irish continued to find themselves pinned inside their own 22. The Irish were bailed out by strong running from their number 8 Grace McGurn, however, outside of McGurn there was a clear lack of go-forward from the Irish.

Davenport’s defense was again able to force errors and then it was back to their typical attack pattern; use their size advantage in the forwards to draw the defense into the middle of the field, and then exploit their speed on the outside. Ordway crossing in the 14th minute to score her second try of the contest, pushing the lead out to 19. 3 minutes later it was Ordway back in the middle of the action intercepting a pass and strolling over the line, to bag herself a hat trick before the first 20 minutes had been played.

The next was a clinic in penalty kicking with Davenport adding two penalties to their tally and Notre Dame was able to convert their first foray into the Davenport 22 into 3 points. Just as it looked as if Notre Dame might have had momentum on their side, errors continued to plague them and gave up a try right under the sticks. 10 minutes left in the first stanza and Davenport was up 39-3.

As the fog started to roll into the stadium Notre Dame was able to exploit the low visibility and cause an uncharacteristic mistake from Davenport. Barnstorming runs from the Notre Dame forward pack eventually lead to a penalty try being awarded, handing the Irish 7 points and a one-woman advantage. Davenport gave Notre Dame a taste of their own medicine and used the low visibility to their advantage, then big running Hunter Moreland helped to set up the try for Davenport. As the teams went in for orange slices Davenport was up 44-10.

The second half couldn’t have started any better for the Irish, with Davenport dropping the opening kickoff and then with Ordway receiving a yellow card, Notre Dame was playing with a 2 player advantage. It took a while but eventually Emma Shimek crossed the line and narrowed the gap to 27 points. Sloppy mistakes from the Irish inside their own half caused the lead to blow out to 34 points again. Off the ensuing kickoff Moreland got the ball from just outside her own 22 then proceeded to break tackles and throwing big don’t argues at any tacklers that got near her. After 50 minutes, Davenport 58, Notre Dame 17. Then, again, moments after the kick of Davenport struck again from a brilliant run from their scrum half Olivia Ortiz, blowing the score out to 63-17.

As Davenport returned to full strength the Irish were still probing spending more and more time inside the opposition half, but the Davenport defense held strong and firm. Off a turnover Danielle Ordway marked her return from the sin bin with a brilliant hurtle down the middle of the field to go in for her fourth try of the contest. Ordway wasn’t done just yet with another blistering run through the defense for her 5th try.

In the final 10 minutes of the game saw both teams going back and forth swapping tries, including Ordway’s 6th, but anything that Notre Dame could produce was too late, as the damage was done. Davenport in their first year at the D1 level were crowned Fall Champions.


USA Rugby Women’s DII

Vassar coming in after a strong showing yesterday started today the same way they left off. Winona, as has been the story for most teams this weekend, dropped the kick off and it cost them dearly. Vassar producing a brilliant strip tackle in Winona State’s own 22 lead to a try just 5 minutes into the game.

Winona State weren’t happy with how the opened the game up, having little to no possession, and when they had the ball breaks and opportunities were laid to waste as poor discipline and handling plagued the team. Vassar happy to continue their forward orientated game executed their game plan perfectly but in a similar vein to Winona State dropped ball killed opportunities.

Once Winona State held on to the ball it didn’t take long for them to get their feet under them. Tap penalties and big running from their forward pack helped to lay the platform of phase play leading to a well worked team try to take the lead 20 minutes in 7-5.

Winona State’s issues off the kick off were evident again as the Blackcats were pinned in their own 22 after a display of poor passing and catching. Vassar capitalized and snatched their lead back.

Winona marched themselves down the field again on the back of dominant forward play and a slew of bad penalties. However, while on the goal line a knock on meant they left empty handed. Vassar then in response continued to march up the field until play was halted momentarily while Emily Becker from Winona State was sent for a ten-minute spell on the sideline after committing a high tackle. Vassar wasted no time and increased their lead on the back of a Michelle Urrutia try. Vassar continued to take advantage of their severe possession and player advantage to drive forward through their pack to score another 7 pointer on the stroke of half time to lead 22-7.

The second half picked up where the first left off, with Vassar marching down the field through pick and go’s. Even when the yellow card came back on for Winona poor set piece play let Vassar continue to dominate possession and territory. Vassar’s early domination in the half resulted in another try. With 47 minutes gone Vassar held a commanding 29-7 lead.

Winona State knowing that it was now or never, took advantage of a penalty and ran in a quick try set up by big powerful running from Lindsey Rutz to close the gap down to 15 points. The try proved to light a fire under the team as they played like they had found some purpose. Despite the new-found determination they were still plagued by penalties and poor passing and catching to let Vassar to continue to control the clock.

Winona State took advantage of an uncharacteristic mistake from Vassar and a player down in back play to run in a try against the run of play to close the gap to only 8 points. A game that at one stage seemed like it could have been all but over was now, still well and truly alive. Winona State didn’t wait long to get back on the scoreboard, with Emily Becker burning through the middle of the field to score a try and bring the margin back down to one with 20 minutes left.

Winona State for the third time in five minutes scored a try and showed what they could do when they were disciplined and didn’t give away the ball via unforced errors. Through another Emily Becker try Winona, for the first time since the first half were now in the lead. The jubilation was short lived though, as they kicked away possession and Vassar through a slew of penalties were able to cross over the white line. Vassar with a bit of help from the right upright on the conversion took a one point lead with 11 minutes left.

In a change of fortune for Winona State, Vassar, made a meal of the kick off leading to a penalty right in front of the sticks from 27 meters out. The kick was good and Winona once again held the lead. For the last 10 minutes, it was a frantic finish. Vassar trying desperately to recapture the lead they had possessed for so much of the game. Winona did their best to help them too, with poor set pieces throwing possession away, and then committing penalties. However, incredible defense and a determination kept Vassar out, and Winona by the skin of their teeth held on to win an incredible game 38-36.



Story courtesy of USA Rugby and archived matches can be watched on The Rugby Channel.

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