Boston beat Beantown for the Northeast seed to DI nationals. /// Photo courtesy Boston Women’s Rugby Club
It was always going to be a good game: Two Boston teams with a long history were fighting for a berth to the DI national championship. Beantown beat Boston twice in the fall by a combined 20 points, but six months later, it was Boston who triumphed 23-10 for the Northeast title and spot in the national quarterfinals.
“The first game in the fall, we lost by three points. It ended with a No. 8 pickup and a dropped pass. We could have won,” Boston coach Arturo Bravo Nuevo recounted. “The second game we lost by  points. So when we were preparing for Saturday, we looked at the things that worked well against Beantown in the first game and the weak points of the second game.”
That progress was tested just in time, as Boston played WPL New York the weekend prior to the regional championship. The team intended to play full-force the first half, and then in the interest of injury prevention, roll in subs in the second 40.
“You only learn when you lose,” said the nationals-bound coach, who was reluctant to divulge specific adjustments. “Ninety percent of tries that get scored on us are in the same places after the same sequence of plays. New York scored all of their tries in the same place, the same way that Beantown had. So we reinforced those areas where we were weak and tightened up the areas where we’re strong.”
Boston had a plan for Saturday, and it was thrown off immediately, as Beantown scored in the first three minutes for the 5-0 lead. Fortunately for Boston, the team was mentally prepared for performing in adverse conditions.
“In the previous games, we followed their lead, but we wanted to take control,” Bravo Nuevo said. “We could have crumbled [when Beantown scored] but we didn’t panic.
“That was a big focus at practice – creating hard conditions,” the coach continued. “I’d have the players train in bare feet or hold tennis balls. Or I’d have the rookies referee [intra-squad] games, and so the players had to adjust to a referee who isn’t making the calls they want.
“Eighty minutes is a long time, but in tight games, it comes down to the little things, making the right decisions at the right time.”
Captain Denise Lyn-Shue was instrumental in keeping the team focused, as was flyhalf Stacey Markovic. Boston rallied with two tries to take a 10-5 lead into the break, and then answered Beantown inside center Julie Wang’s try with a third score. Victoria Avery, Dee Nash and Michelle Noone accounted for Boston’s tries, and Markovic’s conversion gave the team a 17-10 in the second half.
A turning point occurred when Beantown spent approximately 10 minutes inside Boston’s 10 meter, and the defense withstood the onslaught. Beantown committed penalties – two in front of the posts that Markovic converted – and was issued a yellow card.
“It came down to focus, discipline and controlling our temper,” Bravo Nuevo said of 23-10 win.
The Roberts sisters were influential as always. No. 8 Morgan and flanker Tara are national team worthy, according to Bravo Nuevo, and when they’re on, they have the power to bring the whole team with them. Fullback Nash also put in a top-notch performance and garners the same national team compliments from her coach.
It’s been some time since Boston beat Beantown in a league match, and the victory couldn’t have come at a better time. Boston is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
“It’s a big morale boost to win a hard game against Beantown, our biggest rivals,” Bravo Nuevo said. “They are a great team and so well coached. And who knows? We might play them at nationals, and it won’t be easy. They’re the type of team that learns from their mistakes quickly.”
Beantown moves into the repechage against Mid-Atlantic runner-up NOVA, which lost 12-10 to Raleigh in Sunday’s MAC final. The winner will take the fourth seed at Pittsburgh and join Boston, Raleigh and the Midwest’s Chicago North Shore. Click here for the full DI bracket.