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Chico State Charges Forward

  • 31 Mar 2019
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Chico State has solidified the opportunity to defend its USA Rugby DI College Spring Championship title. The Wildcats beat Oregon State 31-19 during the Pacific Mountain Rugby Conference (PMRC) semifinals, and will determine its seed after Sunday’s final against Stanford University. The Cardinal beat UC Davis 36-17 in its semifinal (read more).

Oregon State was the wild card heading into the PMRC championship. The three other teams all compete in the PMRC West together and know each other very well, but the Beavers from the North injected an element of surprise. In particular, the ability of the back line – when it had an unfettered set piece off which to attack – to connect at pace and keep the ball alive was arguably the best on the day.

The early minutes were marked by some missed passes and ball hitting the ground. Three minutes in, Chico State earned a penalty in Hannah Westfall’s range, and the inside center slotted the off-center kick from approximately 30 meters out, with ease. Westfall is so impactful and one of the toughest players to take down. On several occasions, it was her breakaways that set up teammates’ tries.

But first, Westfall scored one of her own, taking the final pass through traffic for the centered try and conversion. The defense hauled down two more linebreaks from Westfall, but not before she found wing Alyssa Pena for the finishing pass and tries, 20-0 after 25 minutes.

Chico State did a fantastic job in the breakdown and was so quick over the ball. The Wildcats poached possession so many times and most frequently during Oregon State’s set penalty plays through the forwards. Scrumhalf Sophia Betts repeatedly instructed her forwards to get closer to the tackle to secure the ball, but the Wildcats managed more times than not to get hands on the ball first.

After a few flashes of brilliance, Oregon State strung together a beauty of a try. The ball circulated through flyhalf Lauren Sloss, the powerful captain and inside center Alexandra Fautanu and outside center Connie Parker with great pace and offloads. It shocked Chico State’s defense and Parker ended with the try that Sloss converted, 20-7.

Westfall ended the half with a second penalty kick to give her side a 23-7 lead into the break, but Oregon State took control early in the second half. The hard-running Fautanu finished off another lovely backs series that worked through many hands for the center to score, 23-12.

That try came off the back of a scrum, but for the most part, Oregon State struggled in the set pieces and that affected the attack’s ability to launch. Chico State dominated the scrum, stealing at least one put-in but also driving the Beavers backward. Additionally, Oregon State’s lineouts were mostly not-straight.

A yellow card near the 50th minute deepened Oregon State’s deficit, as Westfall lined up her third penalty of the day. Still with the player advantage, Chico State stole an OSU scrum, and No. 8 Becky Luedke tore into the slowly retreating defense for a penalty. That set up another scrum, which was able to march over the line for the score, 31-12.

A surge of penalties broke up both teams’ continuity, until the 32nd minute, when Betts quick-tapped through frustrated defenders for a dive-over try from about 10 meters out. Sloss added the conversion, 31-19.

That’s where the game ended, but when the whistle sounded, there was little celebration. Perhaps there was frustration, or maybe the muted happiness that occurs when one knows that another tough game awaits tomorrow. Two take-aways though: Oregon State definitely belonged at the playoffs, and Sunday’s final will feature two teams that exerted dominance in their respective scrums and breakdown work. Should be a good match-up!

CHICO STATE

1 Jackie Rodriquez, 2 Iris Stewart, 3 Reilly Twakin, 4 Vanessa Somoza, 5 Stacy Espinoza, 6 Karla Santiaguillo, 7 Jennica So, 8 Becky Luedke, 9 Anestasia Gray-Berger, 10 Madeline Hyde, 11 Deyci Lopez-Rangel, 12 Hannah Westfall, 13 Kelsie Yoder, 14 Alyssa Pena, 15 Ashley Evans.

Reserves: 16 Brianna Wolney, 17 Sydney Hyman, 18 Brissa Garcia, 19 Myranda Gradney, 20 Maxine Brissenden, 21 Trisha Rodriquez, 22 Luna Retzer.

OREGON STATE

1 Julia Coleman, 2 Patrice Woodworth, 3 Addie Peters, 4 Julia Hart, 5 Elsa Naimo, 6 Galen Bizori, 7 Abby Whitney, 8 Julia Bonder, 9 Sophia Betts, 10 Lauren Sloss, 11 Grace Brod, 12 Alexandra Fautanu, 13 Connie Parker, 14 Addie Miller, 15. Talulah Beisel.

Reserves: 16 Sophia Newman, 18 Camille Molsick-Gibson, 20 Ellie Van Develder, 21 Sophie Bethel, 22 Peyton Roberts

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