ORSU celebrated their return to the WPL with a hard fought 17-12 victory over the Berkeley All Blues in Portland on Saturday, September 13. In their twentieth season of rugby, this was ORSU’s first ever win against their rival from the Bay.
The match kicked off with temperatures in the high 80s and the All Blues only suiting up eighteen players. Berkeley dominated territory and possession throughout the first half, knocking on the door time and time again. Katie Chou, playing eight and captaining Berkeley, was a workhorse throughout. Chou and Dorothy “Dot” Mittow broke the gain line, racking up meters in large chunks. “If this was Fantasy Football, I would of had a great day,” Mittow commented.
The majority of the first half was played deep in ORSU territory, but Berkeley couldn’t come away with any points. Berkeley missed a penalty kick from twenty-five minutes just before George O’Neil blew his whistle to end the half tied at zero.
Sharon Blaney, playing in her first match since representing the USA in France, asserted herself early in the second half. She received a wide flat ball from a ruck and charged for twenty meters before off-loading to Jess Shipley who sliced through two Berkeley defenders. Shipley found Claire Lundy who scampered the last twenty meters to give ORSU the lead at 5-0.
Then it was time for the All Blues forwards to go to work. Noting the absence of Beckett Royce, Berkeley brought Phoebe Boone to the weak side for a scrum inside ORSU’s twenty-two. Katie Chou picked from the back and linked up with Boone on a beautiful give and go that Chou drove inside the five. A couple more pick and goes and Bridget DeSantis plunged over the line to tie things up at 5-5.
Five meters from the sideline, Lisa Dombroski made the conversion look easy, giving the All Blues the lead at 7-5 thirteen minutes into the second half.
Austyn Byassee, one of five ORSU players on her debut, substituted for Liz Kilgore, and ORSU moved Claire Lundy to nine for the first time in her career. To sum up her experience at scrum half Lundy said, “I practiced in the park for an hour passing the ball to Keystone.” Beckett Royce’s gamble paid off as Lundy played smart and quick despite massive pressure from the All Blues pack.
At the sixteen minute mark, Adrian Acosta attacked again from the wide channel off a ruck, gaining fifteen meters in the middle of the field. Acosta found Shipley whose beautiful dummy set up a hard-charging San Juanita Moreno to scamper for twenty meters. Moreno popped to Anna Symonds who scored the try between the posts. Shipley converted giving ORSU a 12-7 lead.
Symonds wasn’t done. Ten minutes later she’d blast through for her second try to push the ORSU lead to 17-7. “Inside the twenty-two, I’m just hungry,” Symonds stated. “I feel like I can’t be stopped.”
The All Blues forwards continued to lean on Chou and Mittow, forcing ORSU to scramble defensively. Berkeley’s forwards drove deep into ORSU territory yet again, and an ORSU penalty let the All Blues tap and go. With a huge push from the pack, Dorothy Mittow scored a well-deserved try bringing Berkeley within five at 17-12. That’s where it would stand.
ORSU lock Te Awhina Ho Chee said the match felt like she was back home in New Zealand playing with her Aunties, “That felt like rugby.” The match was a battle, but the comradery between the clubs was strong equally strong. Moments after the match, All Blues center Lisa Dombroski summed it all up, “I can’t wait for the rematch.” Neither can Your Scrumhalf Connection.
5 Ho Chee
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