Village Lions vs. Albany
Albany 40 - Village Lions 5
September 24th, 2011
Fresh off a bye week and sporting a record of 1-1, Albany looked to climb over the .500 mark with a win against their visitors from NYC, the Village Lions. Albany and the Lions have a long history together, both clubs formed in 2000 and met for much of that 10 year history in the NRU D2 play-offs. Take those championship battles and add in a yearly "friendly" match and you get the recipe for a strong rivalry. The Lions, like Providence, had moved up to D1 a year before Albany so they already had a year of experience playing at this level headed into the contest. In the last meeting of the two clubs (April 2011), it was a hard fought battle on the turf of Randal's Island. Albany won the A-side match that day and with few personnel changes coming from either club since the spring, this falls’ meeting looked to be just as intense.
Albany opened the game much the way they did in the spring- rucking well and the spinning the ball out to the backs who looked to create the space that would get one of them thru to the tryzone. And just as in the spring, it was JoAnne Kos who started finding the gaps in defense and with only 10 minutes of play gone she had visited the tryzone twice and showed some kindness to the kicker (herself) by touching down close to the goal posts; 14-0 Albany.
After letting in the quick scores the Lions redoubled their defensive efforts and the game remained a back and forth affair for the next 20. The Albany forwards put in some strong rucking and offloading skills that prop Mary Pezzulo turned into 5 points off a power pick and go. Fullback Beth Fairall capped the scoring for the first half with a run on the outside that she smartly centered for 5 and JoAnne tacked on her third conversion of the day; Albany 26 - Village Lions 0 at the half.
With the weather warm for a mid-September afternoon, Albany started rolling in their subs in the second to prevent the fade. The fresh legs paid off when winger Willow Eyers scored shortly after getting into the match and provided a much needed energy boost to the club. The Kos conversion followed and made the score 33-0 with just under 30 to play.
Rookie back Catie Prehn showed some great power running by breaking thru the center of the Lions line for her first try as a member of this club. Another conversion by JoAnne (5 for 6 on the day) gave the club a 40 point lead with just under 10 to play. The Lions fought hard the rest of the way and had their efforts pay off in injury time with a try of their own and the game ended with the score 40-5.
With the win, Albany was now 2-1… positioning them in the center of the CR3 table and looking to move up with three games left to play.
MVPs: Caitie Pre
Philadelphia vs. Albany
Albany 13 - Philly 5
September 9th, 2011
The second game of the 2011 fall season brought the club home to Albany for a four week stretch that consists of three home games and a bye. Albany's opponent for their home opener was Philadelphia. Philadelphia and Albany have spent their rugby existences in separate unions and separate divisions so the two clubs have little knowledge of the other. Last year, Philadelphia had lost to Providence (a familiar Albany opponent from their DII years) in the regular season but Philly then got the upper hand in the play-offs. Word from other clubs with experience against Philly was that their forwards were big and they (naturally) used that as part of their game plan, spending a lot of time churning the ball up the middle of the field and pilling bodies into the rucks. At the very least, going into the game Albany knew their days of easier DII league matches were over.
Philly came out fired up and ready to play and had Albany on their back foot from the start. Even some of the spectators commented after the game that they thought the club was going to be for a long day at the hands of Philly the way the game started. Fortunately Albany didn't give up any quick points in those opening minutes and by the 10 minute mark the tide was turning with Albany securing possession and breaking tackles offensively and coming up hard on defense and keeping Philly between the 22's. It was at the 15 minute mark that Ruth Robertson got the scoring portion of Albany's day started with a 20m scamper on the far touchline that ended in the tryzone. The kick by JoAnne Kos was a close one... but it didn't quite turn in enough to add the other 2 points.
As the first half wore on Albany gained more confidence on both sides of the ball. Philly's big forwards were able to break the gainline from time to time but they would always be reeled in by a determined Albany defender or two before they could offload for a hoped for try. Aggressive, front foot defense also kept the pressure on when the ball got out to the Philly backs and it was this pressure that forced several knock-ons. The knock-ons along with a mounting penalty count killed any offensive momentum the visitor's got going and with about 7 minutes to go Albany was finally able to capitalize off of one of those miscues when Beth Fairall notched a try out wide. Once again Jo was close from the outside but didn't catch the break and the half wrapped up with the score 10-0 in Albany's favor.
Second half saw both teams make some slight adjustments but pretty much continue where they left off. Despite their size advantage Philly backed off of contesting at the breakdown (probably because of some the penalties they were getting), this enabled Albany to keep the pressure up by stringing together multiple phases and once again it was the Albany defense resulting in Philly handling errors. At the 33 minute mark Philly earned a hard fought try (no conversion) and reminded the home team that a win was far from guaranteed.
With now what seemed like a long 7 minutes to play, another Philly try would tie up the game and a conversion would give them the win. Albany faced the challenge with determination though didn’t tighten up and try to play it safe. Often best way to protect your lead is to go on the attack… and that they did, advancing down the field until they got Philly in penalty trouble again. This time it was a penalty in front of the posts that JoAnne slotted perfectly to give Albany a much more secure 8 point lead with only injury time to run down. A minute later and the ref’s whistle signaled the end of the match and the home team had their first official Division 1 lead. Albany 13 – Philly 5
Providence vs. Albany
Albany 7 - Providence 12
September 2nd, 2011
Labor Day weekend 2011 signaled the beginning of the rugby season for Division 1 women’s rugby clubs in Competitive Region 3. CR3 is a seven team conference that includes teams as far away from Albany as Atlanta and Washington, DC.
The club had a relatively short road trip to Providence to start their season out. Providence and Albany had faced each other many times in their 6 years in Division 2 together. The outcomes of those matches (particularly in recent years) had been close. The usual scenario being Providence would win the regular season match and Albany would flip the tables in the play-offs. 2010 saw the teams take separate paths as Providence moved to D1 and Albany stayed in D2. Both teams had successful campaigns with Providence reaching the first round of national D1 play-offs and Albany claiming the D2 national title.
Enough back-story… onto the match: Despite the early 10am kick-off the weather was already hot and humid, a factor that would put both team’s early season conditioning to the test. Providence started out with a quick tempo and solid rucking that put Albany under immediate defensive pressure. Albany withstood the early test and thwarted any advances Providence made into their 22. When it was Albany’s turn with the ball they had some solid phase play but early season jitters (and a solid Providence line) kept them from advancing far down the field.
It wasn’t until the first half was almost over that either team was able to score. At the 36th minute Providence was able to put their speedy fullback thru a gap and she finished the run with a try in the corner (no conversion). On the ensuing kick-off Providence displayed some good ball retention in the forwards that drew in the Albany defense. This enabled them to get the ball once again to their favorite recipient (the fullback), and she was through the line again… this time for a try near the posts that was converted. 12-0 Providence, after 40 minutes of play.
Half-time gave Albany some time to regroup and pick a few areas of their game to concentrate on and improve. The renewed focus helped as they re-took the field and the Providence scoring train that had gotten started at the end of the first was brought to a halt. At this point Albany was also able to put the Providence forwards to the test. With 10 minutes gone in the second, sustained Albany possession down by the Providence endzone and a heads up play by scrumhalf Kristin Bonomo (diving over the ruck) got Albany their first try of the game. A JoAnne Kos conversion brought the club just a try away from tying up the match.
Whether it was the two teams familiarity with each other, their similar style of play or the just the fact it was the first match of the season for both clubs, neither Providence or Albany was to come thru with another scoring opportunity. Both teams had surges that put the other one under pressure and Albany had one last hopeful drive into Providence territory with time winding down. The match ended with Providence up 12-7. Despite the loss, Albany still came away with a bonus point for keeping the game within seven as well as a solid base to build the rest of the season on.
Saranac/Lake Placid, NYJuly 30th and 31st, 2011
Saranac… Can-Ams… Christmas for rugby players. No matter what you call it, it is a weekend that rugby players from across this corner of the globe eagerly anticipate every year. And after a spring filled with cold, wet and generally miserable weather for 15's players, Mother Nature decided to show everyone a little love and provided some beautiful weather.
Onto the rugby:
All the women's teams this year were in one division- divided into 8 pools of three teams each. After pool play the top team and the 2nd place team from each pool would play each other on Saturday evening in their respective championship or consolation quarter-final.
Albany was placed in a pool with Hudson Valley and Blackhorse (a team from Fredonia), the other pool in our bracket contained Beantown, New England Motley and Morris. Hmmm, I wonder what will happen...
Anyway, Albany's first match of the day was against Hudson Valley a D3 club from MetNY. That said, Albany was also without seven of their regulars from last year's squad so this was definitely not a game to take for granted. Being a little rusty after not playing 15's for over 2 months, Albany wanted to set the tone immediately and take control early on to get some breathing room. Early on Albany looked to exploit any lapses in HV's defense. The surest path to the try-zone was found on the outside as winger Willow Eyers put the finishing touches on some solid play that had started in the middle of the pitch with just 2 minutes gone. Off the re-start Albany was pressuring again and this time it was forward Erin Putnam displaying some agile running up the center of the field for Albany's next score, Beth Fairall added the conversion. Hudson Valley defense solidified after the two quick scores and the next ten minutes of the match remained scoreless. As the Albany forwards steadily worked the center of the pitch, it enabled space on the edges to open up and winger Willow Eyers was sprung for two more tries before the half was up; 22-0 Albany at the half.
The second half saw a steady flow on fresh legs enter the match as the club looked to manage playing time with two more games now in their future. The subs each added their own valuable contributions and the team kept up its pressure whether on offense or defense. Four more players found the try-zone in this half, with Albany forwards Carrie Emigh and Nicole Vidro scoring the first ten points. The last 12 points of the half were taken care of by fullback Beth Fairall and newly graduated high school player Rachel Bryk, who got her first Albany try to close out the game.
Final score: Albany 47 - Hudson Valley 0
Second match of the day kicked off at 2pm against Blackhorse Rugby- a SUNY Fredonia team. Blackhorse did not put in a good showing against Hudson Valley earlier that day... maybe it had something to do with the fact it was an 8am game and they are college students. Anyway they must have spent the time between their matches recuperating and regrouping as they definitely did not go down without a fight. Blackhorse held their own against Albany and held the team to only two scores in the first 22 minutes of play. The 5 minute mark saw Willow Eyers dot down her fourth try of the day with another Fairall conversion. It was back ball again that capitalized on the work up front of the forwards as center Lauren Sirkin trotted in for a score close to half. 12-0 Albany at the half, a good start but there was much for Albany to improve on in the second half.
Steady pressure and good ball retention in phase play earned Albany a try 8 minutes into the second half with a nice run by center Ruth Robertson. Another Beth Fairall conversion kick built the lead to 26. Blackhorse held defensively for the next ten minutes but failed to get much going when they had possession of the ball… as a result much of their efforts were expended on defense. This seemed to take its toll with 5 minutes left in the match as three more Albany tries were scored. Kristin Bonomo started it off (Fairall conversion), Beth decided to put more than 2 points on the board at a time and scored her own try that Rachel Bryk converted. The third and last try of match was run in by Ruth at the whistle.
Final score: Albany 38 - Blackhorse 0
With the win over Blackhorse and first place in pool H, it was on to the championship quarterfinals take on Pool C's top team... Beantown.
Despite never haven beaten Beantown in a tournament, Albany is always hopefully that each time they play, this will be the time they can keep it close and pull out a win. This year there was a better chance than usual as Beantown had only two of their Premier League starters and the rest of the club filled out by the true B and C-side players. Albany was ready to play as soon as the ball was kicked off- a fired up Carrie Emigh and Kristin Bonomo took the lead in assaulting the heart of the Beantown line, whether on offense or defense. The rest of the team followed suit and the opening minutes of the game saw Albany display an intense go-forward, pressuring style of play that kept Beantown on their back foot for quite a while. Beantown was able to release some of that pressure at the 7 minute mark when they fed the ball into the hands of their Eagle fullback who quickly darted up the center of the field making several defenders miss on her way to scoring a try. Five minutes later it was a similar story, this time on the outside, to make the score 12-0. However Albany shook off the lapses in defense and resumed the pressure on defense. The hard effort paid off and it there was only one more try in the first half (in injury time). 19-0 Beantown lead at the half.
Second half opened with Albany looking to retain possession of the ball and get things going offensively. Their efforts were rewarded when Ruth Robertson turned on the jets to beat Beantown’s fullback on the corner for Albany's first score of the game. The game continued on in much of the same way as the first half, with Albany applying good pressure but Beantown able to capitalize on any lapses on Albany's part. Two more converted tries by Beantown at 8 minutes and 16 minutes put the game out of reach for Albany. The final score was Beantown 33 - Albany 5. Not the victory Albany had wished for but a solid effort nonetheless and solid start to the club's 15's season.
Final score: Albany 5 - Beantown 33
MVP's of the Match:
Rookie fly-half Abby Brigham, for her grace under fire, especially against Beantown and veteran lock Alicia Backus, for proving that old dogs can indeed learn new tricks.
Albany's competitive DII women's rugby club.