The Division II West Coast Women’s Rugby Conference remains interesting, as the top half of the league continues to produce tight results. There’s approximately one month remaining in the 15s regular season, and all kinds of anticipation the April 8-9 championships, which will feature the top-four teams. The West Coast will send its reps to the CRAA Spring 15s western playoffs two weeks later. And for those teams that are rebuilding numbers, they are getting in matches – 7s or combination 15s games – even though the standings reflect 15-0 forfeits.
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Last Saturday, long-time NorCal referee Larry Freitas was supposed to officiate the DII senior club match between the San Jose Seahawks and Rene Battleborn Babes, but upon its cancelation, he found himself with a rare morning free. So he traveled to UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) for the Banana Slugs’ game against San Jose State – a rematch of the 2022 conference championship – and took advantage of the opportunity to be a spectator and live-stream commentator. Thanks again to Freitas for the following game report:
UCSC Banana Slugs hosted the San Jose State Spartans on a cold and wet, late-morning, Saturday, February 11. Temperature at game time was in the high 40s, it rained and hailed off and on during the match, and with the rain came some blasts of icy wind.
Giles Wilson, the referee, whistled for many knock forwards during the match with the wet ball. UCSC seemed to gain the upper hand in this match early on, though they were playing into the wind. Flyhalf Vanessa Shaffer engineered some backline movements that kept the Spartans locked in their own end for long passages of play, with inside center Leah Vanek breaking tackles and/or shooting through gaps in the San Jose State defense. Also, Shaffer utilized some grubber kicks and cross kicks to keep the visitors on the back foot. Whenever the Spartans spun the ball wide, the UCSC backs stopped their runners cold with hard tackling.
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With 20 minutes gone, the Slugs’ Devyn York, scrumhalf, crossed the goal line. Late in the first half, with UCSC once again deep in State territory, Shaffer orchestrated a move that had winger Allie James on the left wing crossing the line and dotting down near the corner. Shaffer’s attempt at a conversion once again failed with the extreme angle for the kick, 10-0.
With the second-half start, UCSC now had the wind at their back, blowing in from the west and northwest. The Spartans just could not generate any sort of offense and once again spent most of their time having to make tackles with the goal line not far behind them.
UCSC kept the pressure on for most of the next 40 minutes. Shaffer sent a kick downfield with right wing Eli Werbler on the chase, and an early tackle from the Spartans resulted in a penalty. UCSC’s final try came from an offside penalty when the Spartan backline came up too quickly from a lineout well inside State’s 22. The mark was given five meters out and scrumhalf Devyn York took the quick tap and scored again near the corner of the in-goal.
With a 15-0 lead, it was safe to say that the home side had the game sewn up. Five minutes were left on the clock, but that was enough time for San Jose to finally penetrate into the UCSC quarter. With time expired and in injury time, San Jose scored an unconverted try that ended the match.
UCSC’s upset over the Spartans was a surprise. They had lost to Sacramento State (20-15) a few weeks earlier, and Sacramento State had been pulverized by San Jose State in November. Next weekend, UCSC travels to St. Mary’s while San Jose State will hope to rebound against Cal Poly at home. San Jose was missing a few injured players, but whether they could have overcome the Slugs at full strength is a question that could be answered if both teams meet again in the playoffs.
Yay SLUGS! Love that UCSC Scrumhalf, Devyn York!
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