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Amazons Capture DII National Trophy

  • 03 Jun 2019

Photo: Lisa Di Giacomo for USA Rugby

Harrisburg left its mark on the USA Rugby DII Club National Championship, but Sacramento defined the game in a 55-40 victory. Amazons No. 8 Siu Green was named championship MVP and was an emblem of the power and skill that defined the Californian team.

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The game opened with a thunderous tackle from Sacramento, setting the tone for physicality on both sides of the ball. On attack, the Amazons made ground with every carry and worked a damaging offload game to continue those north-south runs. When the call to spin the ball came, every player on the pitch had the skills to put the strikers into open space.

Sacramento scored four tries in 24 minutes. The first built off a not-straight lineout and thus turnover to put Shamila Matapula in the corner. The second came after a big Ariana Lewis break and good return from fullback Lexia Reynolds when Harrisburg was able to clear for some relief. Flyhalf Margaret Scott – the hinge to Sacramento’s fast-moving game – eventually stepped through the defense and cut hard against the sweeper for the Lindsay Palepale-converted try.

Cpt Ofa Mailangi / Photo: Lisa Di Giacomo for USA Rugby

After several tough carries the first quarter, captain Ofa Mailangi took a skip pass from Scott to score, and then flanker Lewis barreled in for the fourth: 22-0.

Harrisburg had to play a lot of defense and was constantly retreating to reset the line, making it tough to launch phase after phase. But there was no give-up in the Harlots, an attribute that would incite an incredible run later in the match.

The restart went deep and Sacramento attempted to the run the ball out of its end. Inside center Nikki Snyder perfectly time a burst off the line for an intercept try, which flanker Georgia Goodman converted: 22-7.

Zons FH Margaret Scott / Photo: Lisa Di Giacomo for USA Rugby

Amazons flanker Gardenia Schaaf went on a damaging run and linked up with Scott. Harrisburg wing Emily McHenry brought Scott down by hair and drew a yellow card. Reynolds scored immediately after the penalty, 27-7.

Still with a player advantage, Mailangi went on a stiff-arming tear through the defense and looked well on her way to a second try. Untouched, she hit the turf clutching her knee and was escorted off the pitch.

As halftime approached, Harrisburg was able to find continuity in tight and get some breathing room. But then the pass out to the backs hit the deck and Sacramento swarmed. Scott broke away for the try, 34-7 into the break.

Photo: Lisa Di Giacomo for USA Rugby

Sacramento added two more tries during the first 15 minutes of the second half, and Harrisburg added one. A big boot from Scott and solid lineout set up scrumhalf Diana Nguyen for a dive-over try. And then Harrisburg featured an athletic score as Snyder somehow emerged through a wall of defense and wrestled the ball free to find Michelle Kirk. The No. 8 was at full tilt and took a fingertip grab into the try zone, 41-14 with Goodman’s and Palepale’s conversions.

Harrisburg knocked on the restart and Sacramento took advantage of the territory. As the attack drew close to the try line, lock Heather Snyder darted to the unguarded side of the ruck for the Palepale-converted try, 48-14.

Crossing into the fourth quarter, the game felt well in Sacramento’s favor, but Harrisburg had nothing to lose in the continued push. The attack was running into a brick wall and then Snyder, again, bust through a gap for an individual try, 48-21. There were approximately 10 minutes to play and the Harlots were up for it.

Photo: Lisa Di Giacomo for USA Rugby

From the restart, outside center Rebecca Iengle and Kirk went on big runs to relocate play to the Amazons’ 22. A yellow card then allowed Harrisburg to reset with a scrum and the ball moved wide to wing Jacqueline LeBlanc for the score.

Kirk was crucial in maintaining momentum, picking off the scrum for big gains and then taking quick taps from the mark and catching Sacramento in the lazy retreat. Eventually Palepale was yellow-carded for not-10 inside Sacramento’s 22, and Harrisburg used the two-player advantage to put McHenry into the corner: 48-35 with five minutes to play.

McHenry was key in setting up the next score, getting a mini break out wide, chipping ahead and then forcing Nguyen to kick the ball out in the chase. The lineout moved to Snyder for the center’s third try of the day. The conversion, however, failed, making it a two-score game: 48-40 with two minutes on the scoreboard clock.

MVP Green / Photo: Lisa Di Giacomo for USA Rugby

The Harrisburg defense withstood a final push from the Amazons, until Lewis bust through for her second try, 55-40 with Rachel Gonzalez’s conversion. The final whistle sounded as the Amazons kicked the ball to touch shortly after the restart.

Sacramento finished second in the 2014 and 2015 national finals, and 2019 marked Harrisburg’s first-ever trip. The Amazons dictated the majority of the match but the Harlots left the final impression with an incredible run and thrilling end.

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