A crisp, sunny morning set the scene for a real WPL rugby duel Sunday at Frederick Rugby Football Club’s new Tobin Triebel Memorial Pitch** at Walnut Ridge Park in Frederick, Md.
The D.C. Furies hosted Berkeley on the recently rain-softened pitch about 50 miles northwest of D.C. proper. After whipping out two unanswered tries — including a stunning breakaway foot race by Furies No. 14 Ida Bernstein — the Furies seemed confident. But Berkeley came whomping back in the second half, showing dominance in the rucks and a critically accurate boot in breezy conditions. When Berkeley touched down what would be its final try, the score would have been tied had the Furies made their point-after kicks and one set field goal attempt earlier in the game. The final score was 22-15.
Both teams had a share of penalties, with Berkeley’s No. 9 applying pressure to the tune of a yellow card in the first half.
The Furies spent a lot of time attacking on offense, but Berkeley’s defense seemed to readjust and gel after the Furies’ aggressive start. There were some riveting goal-line stands by both teams, and watching the backs was like getting a bit of a schoolhouse lesson on footwork (at least for this longtime DII player).
The Furies will host one more home game on the borrowed Frederick pitch — on Oct. 10 against Beantown.
**The pitch is named for Tobin Triebel, a Maryland State Police flight medic and longtime Frederick rugger who was killed in an accident in 2008.
Match Report/Roster/Subs provided by Eli White:
The Washington, D.C. Furies fell just short of scoring a major upset, falling 22-15 to the visiting Berkeley All-Blues. After a disappointing loss to the Amazons two weeks ago in which they felt they failed to play to their potential, the Furies came out with incredible intensity, focus, and team continuity to put in two tries in the first ten minutes of the game. A penalty by the All-Blues gave the Furies a lineout at the 10 meter line, and the Fury forwards seized the opportunity to systematically maul the ball into the try zone, touched down by prop Dre Khoury for a 5-0 lead.
Just a few minutes later, as the All-Blues moved the ball back up the field, excellent counter rucking saw the ball into the hands of Fury prop Tiffany Smith on the weak side of the breakdown. The versatile Smith drew a defender and passed to wing Ida Bernstein, who showcased her speed, running 70 meters in for the second try of the match. 10-0 Furies.
Berkeley came back strong, threatening with a series of plays deep in Fury territory, but the home team kept up their tenacious defense, launching hard and driving players back behind the gain line. The All-Blues knew they were outmatched in the forwards, and turned to their backline to change the momentum. Berkeley looked sure to score when #10 Ruth Bryson placed a perfect chip kick down the line into the try-zone, but Furies flanker Julie Hogan raced in to touch it down just in time to give her team a 22-drop kick.
The visitors stuck with their backs, though, and in the last minute of the half, the always dangerous Nathalie Marchino ran through the defense to score. The conversion went wide, and though trailing10-5 at half, the All-Blues won the momentum. “It was frustrating to play 39 great minutes, then let up for less than a minute and have them score,” said Furies Captain Kelly Clerkin, “but that’s what a team like Berkeley does to you. They take advantage of anything you give them. It reminded us that we can never let up.”
Berkeley returned from the break determined to continue where they left off, and immediately threatened the Furies deep in their territory. Though two scoring attempts were held up in the try zone, a quick weak side pick and go by Berkeley sub Julia Diskin tied the game at 10 apiece.
Perhaps remembering their comeback victory against Beantown just two weeks before, Berkeley looked determined to add in another score. After hard, ground gaining runs by All-Blues backs Lucy Croy and Ashley English to disfigure the Furies backline, Bryson returned to her foot, chipping the ball into try zone with wing Irene Gardner coming at pace to touch it down in the corner. 15-10 Berkeley.
The Furies came back from the score with more attack from their forwards, and quickly moved the ball downfield. An All-Blues penalty provided an opportunity for 3 points, but the kick missed with ten minutes to go. Minutes later, Marchino again sliced her way through the defense to touch the ball down. Bryson slotted the conversion to make it 22-10.
The Furies refused to give up, and lock Liz Hirschorn punched in a last second try to bring the final score to 22-15. The seven point differential earned the Furies a bonus point, and despite the tough loss, the match proved that their 0-3 record is not indicative of their level of play. “This was our best game so far [this season],” said D.C. coach Kate Nichols. “We were focused and intense going into the match, making good decisions on defense. We have really progressed mentally from past seasons.” Added Clerkin, “I think the game as a whole showed we can play with anyone.”\
The Furies will look to get their first win of the season as they host Beantown on Sunday, October 10th. Beantown defeated the Furies 31-8 in the WPL opener in September, though the Furies dominated possession. The Boston team looks to rebound after two tough losses to Berkeley and the Twin Cities Amazons.
1. Dre Khoury
2. Leanna Berger
3. Tiffany Smith
4. Joanna Bader
5. Liz Hirschorn
6. Laura Miller
7. Julie Hogan
8. Kelly Clerkin
9. Sara Shanley
10. Katie Bell
11. Emily Miller
12. Val Winschel
13. Katy Welter
14. Ida Bernstein
15. Jessica Shipley
Subs who made it in the game —
Amy Bond (blood sub)
1. Julie Kiev
2. Ginna Brelsford
3. Courtney Ellis
4. Helen Behr
5. Katie Chou
6. Alex Boskovich
7. Phoebe Boone
8. Liz Terry
9. Elaine Gardner
10. Ruth Bryson
11. Nathalie Marchino
12. Lucy Croy
13. Kelly Griffith
14. Irene Gardner
15. Ashley English